Peter Cunniff '15
Peter Cunniff knows what it feels like to have someone's life rest in his hands.
While many students are relaxing after a long week of classes, the criminal justice major is working as an emergency medical technician with the Seymour Ambulance Association, putting in anywhere from 12 to 30 hours on the weekend responding to emergencies in his hometown.
This past April, Cunniff responded to a call in which a woman complained of abdominal pain. When he arrived on the scene, he realized they wouldn't make it to the hospital. Over the course of 26 minutes, Cunniff and his partner delivered the woman's baby in the back of their ambulance.
"The father was crying, the grandfather showed up and stood at the door of the ambulance and said, 'Is everything okay?' and I just held the kid up to him and he broke down in tears just from the joy," said Cunniff.
"It's the best call I've had so far because I've been there when a life has left the Earth, I've been to the scene of a bad wreck and I've dealt with drunks who want to fight," he said. "But this was a life-changing experience. I brought something into the world and it's an amazing thing."
The desire to help others follows Cunniff from the ambulance into the classroom at Quinnipiac. His childhood dream of becoming a police officer has evolved into aspirations of a criminal law career.
"I hate routine," he said. "What attracted me to the field of criminal justice is the ability to help people. Something will be new every day and I'll be out there making a difference."
Cunniff says the experience his professors bring to the classroom is invaluable. He is currently pursuing a fall internship at the office of Kevin Lawlor, a legal studies professor and state's attorney for the judicial district of Ansonia-Milford.
"Professor Lawlor works Monday through Friday prosecuting criminal cases and Thursday nights I get to spend three hours in his class for criminal law," he said. "The professors here spend more time making sure you understand things and bring in a lot of personal stories. You need those firsthand stories to figure out how everything fits, especially with law. If you understand the principle, that's great. But if you can't apply it, it's no good."
Cunniff has plans to attend law school after graduating from Quinnipiac next year, but vows to continue his emergency medical services work.
"Until the day that I can no longer lift people is probably how long I want to keep doing this," he said. "It's a great thing. It's the best decision I've made so far in life."
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