In kindergarten, senior Zach Posner got an assignment, “When I Grow Up,” and he wrote he wanted to be an ambulance person.
Or really, in the language of a 6 year old, Posner wrote he wanted to be an “abelans pasan.”
But his teacher knew.
In his hometown of Livingston, New Jersey, Posner grew up behind a hospital and always heard the sirens and saw the lights of an ambulance when it raced out to a call. He then started asking his mom, a registered dietician, all sorts of questions.
Those questions soon morphed into one big question: “Can I help?”
That continued throughout his life – and blossomed at HPU.
He helped the university get its first ambulance.
For three years, he teamed up with HPU’s Dr. Kristin Ackerman. Posner talked to school officials, worked through the legal and medical minutia and did the research that helped secure the funding needed to have a campus ambulance available to help people in need and serve as a vehicle for experiential learning, where hands-on experience can help create a future.
Posner is HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for the month of March. He will graduate in May, a year early, after studying criminal justice and psychology.
And right before he graduates, he’ll see an SUV become an ambulance known as HPUEMS.
“If I didn’t try to step up and make a difference,” he says, “I’d regret it for the rest of my life.”
A Day Remembered
Posner, the youngest of two boys, always looked for ways to help after seeing and hearing the ambulances behind his house.
By age 7, Posner started attending charity dinners and charity events with his parents, Warren and Pamela Posner. They were raising money to fight cancer. Posner went to honor his maternal grandmother, Eileen Greenhouse Genet. She died of ovarian cancer.
By age 12, he began volunteering at a local animal hospital. He started with mopping floors and graduated to helping with vaccines.
By age 16, he became a certified emergency medical technician, and he joined the East Hanover First Aid Squad. He worked 12-hour shifts, many of which were uneventful.
But not always.
It was a Saturday when he and his fellow EMTs heard about an incident at an indoor amusement park. When they arrived, they found a crowd of people surrounding a mother holding a five-month-old baby. The baby had turned blue and couldn’t breathe.
With emergency bag in hand, Posner waded through the crowd to help the baby. He found no pulse, took a pen light and looked inside the baby’s mouth. He saw something plastic. With the baby’s mother right beside him, he reached in with his finger and pulled out a small plastic toy.
Immediately, the baby began to cry.
At the end of his shift, Posner sat at his family’s kitchen table and heard the question he always gets from his parents.
“How was your day?”
Posner told them what happened. They were speechless.
The Importance of One Question
During a college fair at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey, Posner kept passing a purple-laden table surrounded by people. He got in line and found out about HPU. He knew he had to visit.
When he and his dad arrived on campus, rain came down in buckets. He and his dad toured the campus in a covered golf cart, and with his face pressed up against its plastic windows, Posner loved the beauty he saw and the possibilities he heard about.
He was so excited he wrote about his enthusiasm on the official Facebook page for his incoming class – a post that had HPU staff members coming up to him and saying, “So, you’re Zach.”
Posner came in as a Presidential Scholar and came down for the monthlong session for incoming freshmen known as the Summer Advantage.
Freshmen take classes, meet professors, get acclimated to college life and map out their schedule with their Success Coach. Posner did all that. But he also had a question for Dr. Angela Bauer, then the chair of the biology department.
“This is what I want to do – get an ambulance,” he asked her. “How do I do it?’’
The Mentorship of HPU
An ambulance is not Posner’s only interest.
He leads campus tours as a University Ambassador, and he was selected to be a captain, a supervisory role. He also works in the Office of Student Life where he’s a student justice, a hearing officer and a hearing chair on the Judicial Conduct Board.
In August, he was appointed to be one of four Supreme Court Justices at HPU.
He is also vice president of HPU’s Criminal Justice Club. For the past two years, he has volunteered with the High Point Police Department, in its forensic division helping crime scene investigators, and later as a police intern who went on ride-alongs and assisted detective interview witnesses at crime scenes.
And last summer, he interned with the New Jersey State Police with its Violent and Organized Crime Control Bureau.
After graduation, Posner wants to go into law enforcement.
At HPU, Posner is president of Hillel, the university’s Jewish Life organization, and during his tenure, he has scheduled more events and made the organization more active on social media.
Posner says Hillel has grown from five to 80 members, and today, he hears more people ask, “When is your next event?”
For him, that means much.
“If you give someone the opportunity to learn then, they have the opportunity to teach,” he says. “That’s big. History won’t repeat itself when there’s knowledge.”
As evident from his “When I Grow Up” assignment, Posner has always had confidence. But HPU, he says, helped him hone his confidence – and more.
“High Point taught me how to be successful and gave me the tools to improve myself,” he says. “If I’m wrong, High Point provided me the vision on why and how to fix it. The professors, the success coaches, they all helped me along the way.”
The Positive Outcome of Passion
Posner sees Peyton Davis, a learning excellence specialist at HPU, as one of his mentors. She is the former assistant director of student conduct, and she’s seen him grow as a hearing officer and seen his passion firsthand with HPUEMS.
“He’s seen that through from the first moment, and I think that just shows you his maturity, his commitment and his character,” she says. “That’s huge. “
Then there’s Dr. Ackerman, an assistant professor of biology. She saw Posner often during the past three years. She guided him, telling him at almost every office visit, “Here’s your next step. If you want to make it happen, you can do it.”
Last spring, when having lunch with his dad in New Jersey, Posner got a call from Ackerman. She was excited.
“What is happening?” Posner asked, sounding worried.
“We got the money!” she told him.
She had just heard they had received a Think BIG! Grant from HPU to turn an SUV into an ambulance. Three years after he first asked the question, Posner got the answer he longed to hear.
HPU will have an ambulance.
The ambulance will be based at the medical emergency station inside the new Wanek School of Undergraduate Sciences. Nearly 30 students will run the station, and they’ll be certified in CPR, interested in science or medicine and needing experience with patients.
They’ll work around the clock, in 12-hour shifts, prepared to race to emergencies on and close to campus at a moment’s notice.
“I know I was put on this earth to make a difference, to help people help themselves,” Posner says. “To waste that is a life wasted.”