Every student’s path to Valparaiso University is as unique as they are, and for Manny Calleros ‘25, ‘27, that journey began as a transfer student after serving for over 15 years as a first responder. Continuing his calling to help others, he is currently wrapping up his first year in Valpo’s Physician Assistant Program.
Taking it back to his senior year of high school, Manny dual enrolled in an Emergency Medical Technician program to pursue a career as an EMT. After graduating as Valedictorian of the course, he continued onto paramedic school while dual enrolling in college courses after high school. This led Manny to a career as a part-time firefighter and paramedic where he answered a wide range of calls and helped countless people. Manny recalls one family writing a letter of gratitude to the EMS team after they responded to their call, which resonated with him and his personal drive to serve as a first responder.
After years of pouring his heart into his career, an injury in 2020 forced Manny to switch gears and focus on his recovery. “I spent my whole life wanting to be a fireman and a paramedic and all of a sudden, I can’t. It was very hard for me,” Manny says..
He orginally took this career path after dedicating his life to helping others after his sister passed away when he was 10. “If I can help at least one family from feeling how I felt and how my family felt, then that’s awesome,” Manny says.
After watching a YouTube video, Manny was inspired by the speaker's words on focusing on your strengths, that’s when you excel in life; he wasn’t ready to give up on the medical field despite his injury. When his time as a first responder came to an end, Manny pivoted, keeping his promise to his sister and finding a new path to help others as a PA student. “I ultimately decided I wanted to be a physician assistant because of the flexibility it allowed with moving between disciplines,” Manny said.
Melissa Rogers, Manny’s admission counselor, helped him fill out the transfer paperwork and guided him through the entire process, which Manny described as an easy and comfortable process. Upon acceptance into the Valpo PA program, Manny was awarded a merit scholarship based on his GPA and college credits.
When it came time to attend Valpo’s orientation, FOCUS, Manny decided to check out the new student activities fair to get a better feel for life at Valpo. There, he stumbled upon the Valparaiso University Police Department (VUPD) where he asked Detective Garber and Officer Hisaw if they were hiring anyone for a dispatch position. Two weeks before classes started, Manny began training for his full time position as VUPD dispatch.
“That was pretty cool,” says Manny. “The really cool part about it was being full-time staff here, I have tuition remission, on top of my scholarship. I’m very thankful that someone gave me a chance when I really, really needed it,” Manny said.
Being a full-time student, working full-time, and being a husband and father of four presents some challenges. “I’m thankful to have met my soulmate,” Manny said about his wife Amber. He describes his family as his rock, and the reason behind his hard work.
“They are my strength and my motivation and who I think about when things get hard with school. I can’t let them or myself down,” Manny said.
Manny describes his passing of his first semester as something that was out of sheer will and desire to succeed. “Failure was not an option,” Manny said. “My family and I depended on my success.”
Manny relates the balance of school, work, and life to triage. In the medical field, triage is where you pick your priority patients and those are the ones you work with first. Sometimes choosing school meant napping in his car between classes or using that saved time to study or read. During this time, his wife really stepped in to support him while he followed his dreams that will someday turn around to support the family.
Manny says he’s very proud to be a part of the Valpo family and a Beacon. “It’s interesting to be called the Beacons now, because I just want to be a beacon; a beacon of hope, to help people,” Manny said.
Despite everything on his plate, Manny continues with his desire to help and give back plans to share his experience and knowledge via tutoring in anatomy next year in order to help as many future healthcare providers as possible. Manny truly encompasses the heart of what it means to be a Valpo Beacon, and we are so thrilled for the pillar of excellence that he is in our community and beyond.