How an Eleven Year Old Got Mehmet Barzev ’18 to Graduate From ESU
“Daddy, I am not going to college,” announced Lucy.
“Because you and Mommy didn’t go to college.”
And that is the reason why Mehmet Barzev, age 38, is graduating from East Stroudsburg University this May with a degree in English with a concentration in professional and digital media writing.
For more than 20 years Barzev, from South Stroudsburg, has been thriving in his career as a paramedic for the City of Allentown’s Department of Emergency Management Services. But he says that the fact that he had never finished his bachelor’s degree has haunted him for years. So that exchange with his 11-year-old daughter, Lucy, stopped him cold and convinced him to complete his degree.
After graduation from high school, Barzev did attend ESU, worked as an EMT and then stepped out to do paramedic training. “I was young and stupid, and full of piss and vinegar. You think you know it all,” he says wryly.
Soon a full-time career as a paramedic, along with the arrival of Lucy and her sister, Gracelyn, 8, put college way down on his life list.
But he would think about that degree when he drove past ESU a dozen times a day in an ambulance on the way to Lehigh Valley Hospital – Pocono. “I felt like I had left something on the table.”
Finally, it was a “child’s crazy talk that she doesn’t want to go to college” that proved the catalyst. “Setting an example for my daughter was the driving force,” says Barzev.
What Barzev didn’t realize for all those years was that he was just seven courses away from his degree. With the help of Dr. Kim McKay, retired, he enrolled and started in January. With a Monday/Wednesday/Friday morning schedule, an independent study that included writing for the University’s student-run paper, The Stroud Courier, the strong support of his wife Jaclyn, (who is also a paramedic in Bethlehem, Pa.), a supportive supervisor and a lot of help from colleagues willing to reorganize schedules at work, he completed it all in single semester.
Lucy, Gracelyn and their dad spent evenings together doing homework at the dining room table. “Lucy knows I am finishing school, but the kids don’t really understand what it means. She understands the complexity of it but not the gravity.”
Barzev added his studies to an already pretty full plate. Along with his full-time job, he serves as Emergency Management Coordinator for the Borough of Stroudsburg, chair of the Stroudsburg Zoning Hearing Board, an EMT instructor for the Lehigh Valley, and oh, yes, a volunteer for the National Ski Patrol.
He credits his father for instilling a strong work ethic in his children. “He accepts nothing but the best. You have to work hard to get a compliment from him,” Barzev says. His father, owner of Doughboy’s of the Poconos Pizza in Delaware Water Gap, immigrated from Bulgaria in 1975 and “knows hard work.” The elder Barzev has good reason to be proud of his children. Mehmet Barzev’s younger brother is a sophomore at ESU, and his sister is graduating this spring, with a 4.0 GPA, from another university.
What is in the future for the paramedic with a degree in professional and digital media writing? Barzev looks toward a career in public information/public relations. His next step is a master’s degree in emergency management and combining communications skills and emergency management, perhaps as director of social media for a healthcare system. After 23 years riding in ambulances, Barzev says sitting behind a desk doesn’t look like a bad idea.
Of the experience completing his degree, Barzev says, “ESU was great. The professors are great. Everything was wonderful. I could have done it online, but I chose to do it on campus at ESU. It means a lot more earning my degree from the place that I started.”
Sadly, Lucy Barzev won’t be able to experience the full splendor of commencement since her dad has a work commitment that will keep him from attending graduation on Saturday, May 5. But you can expect to see her on ESU’s campus for a visit sometime soon, and, just maybe, in about seven years.