Meet the Winner of the Fall 2021 Darrigo & Diaz Scholarship for Emergency Responders and Their Families: Gabrielle Kirsch
Posted By Darrigo & Diaz
Darrigo & Diaz Attorneys at Law is pleased to introduce Gabrielle Kirsch as the 2021 Winner of our Annual Scholarship for Emergency Responders and Their Families.
Since 1999, the personal injury attorneys at Darrigo & Diaz have worked tirelessly to protect the rights of Tampa community members; those who fall victim to serious injuries in auto and trucking accidents, slip and falls, and wrongful death cases. Each day, we see firsthand the phenomenal acts of courage, compassion, and competence exhibited by emergency responders. We are honored to contribute to their educational path and will be awarding an annual $1,000 scholarship to an emergency responder or medical professional student.
A highly motivated individual, Gabrielle obtained her bachelor’s degree in athletic training from Eastern Kentucky University and her master’s degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in athletic training from A.T. Still University while working full-time as an athletic trainer at a Kentucky high school.
After losing her father at a young age to sudden cardiac arrest, Gabrielle’s goal is to use her experiences and education to develop emergency action plans for area high schools that will provide physical and mental health resources to adolescents during their formative years.
“Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) can happen to anyone, at any time, regardless of age, race, or gender. Almost 11 years ago, I lost my father to SCA at the age of 42. He was a completely healthy individual who was, at the time of his death, playing in a volleyball tournament at our church.”
Gabrielle had just turned 18 when she lost her father. There was no warning. There were no signs. In fact, her father had just visited the doctor two weeks prior to his passing and received a clean bill of health. SCA is a serious condition that affects approximately 350,000 people in the US every year. While the mortality rate is high, survival can be improved with proper emergency responses, such as using an automated external defibrillator (AED). Gabrielle saw a need and decided to do something about it.
“The passing of my father not only pushed me into the medical field for my occupation, but also [motivated] me to raise awareness for SCA. The following August, I enrolled in undergraduate studies in the medical field (athletic training) and partnered with that church for the same volleyball tournament.”
The church where her father passed did not have an AED, which could have saved her father’s life. For the following year’s tournament, Gabrielle partnered with the church to raise funds for purchasing an AED for the building and outdoor recreational areas. Each year, Gabrielle continues to support the annual event, which is now named after her father.
Giving back to her community is a core driver of Gabrielle’s professional and personal goals. Having grown up in a rural, small town, Gabrielle understands the challenges that many families face. In her role as an athletic trainer, she strives to create a safe and supportive environment for not only the athletes, but the entire student body.
“I currently provide athletic training services for a low income-based high school in Kentucky. Within the community, I serve as the only athletic trainer for over 1,000 students. Some of these students have no insurance, and I am the only source of medical service that they receive (and can afford) because of their family’s socioeconomic situations.”
Gabrielle describes several instances where she has gone above and beyond to support her students. In her second week on the job, a football player, who had been shot four times due to gang related violence, did not have the familial resources to go to therapy or his doctor’s appointments. Gabrielle took the young man to his appointments and provided therapy services to him at school. Gabrielle also serves as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, providing emotional, mental, and physical support to students needing a safe place to talk.
“The most important thing that educators, administrators, and parents should know is no matter the situation (mental health or not) listen to your students. Be there to listen and talk to them as they could be struggling with more than you know.”
Gabrielle recognizes the importance of both physical and mental health. She is pursuing her doctorate degree in athletic training to not only provide therapy and training services to student athletes, but to be able to provide emergency mental health services to students in need. Her goal is to create a mental health emergency action plan (EAP) for her high school and community.
“The plan is to start an emergency action plan (EAP) that can be an example for other high schools around the area to also implement at their school. By creating a mental health EAP, I can give free assistance to students who need resources or guidance with mental health issues. This EAP can bring awareness of mental health stressors for secondary school students with the intent of creating a mental health program/resource for secondary school athletes struggling with mental health stressors.”
The tragedy that struck Gabrielle as a child has driven her to give back and help others. She recognizes the value she can contribute to her community through her professional career. As an athletic trainer, she has the opportunity to support her students and create real change through emergency action plans that can save lives. Gabrielle is a leader and true inspiration for the next generation.
Darrigo & Diaz Scholarship for Emergency Responders and Their Families
The Darrigo & Diaz Scholarship for Emergency Responders and Their Families is just a part of our effort to recognize these heroes in our community by providing financial assistance to emergency responders and their family members to further their education and therefore further their career — or take the first step toward a new one.
Learn more about the Darrigo & Diaz scholarship and how to apply here.