MT. HOPE, WV (WVNS) — Ihael Palermo lived in Puerto Rico for 21 years. He moved to the United States in 2019.
“I wanted to experience something new,” Palermo explained.
He bounced around from different jobs, including one at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve. That is where he got to witness the Mt. Hope fire and rescue team in action. He grew inspired by their work in the community and decided to join them.
“It’s a service. It’s a job at the end of the day, but it’s a service that I want to provide to the community,” Palermo said.
Now, he serves his new community every day as a volunteer EMT; however, he still remembers his Puerto Rican roots. He wears a necklace that reminds him of the values his grandfather passed down to him.
Palermo also plays a drum-like instrument for his teammates, and his captain Raisa Wheeler, who also has Latino roots.
“I was born in San Jose, Costa Rica,” Wheeler said.
She was adopted by an American family shortly after she was born. Although she does not know much about her heritage, she still honors where she came from in a different way. She is a Latino woman in a leadership role.
“I think woman really have to prove themselves to be accepted and respected,” Wheeler said.
She is shining example for young Latino girls, hoping to follow their dreams.
“It’s a color, it’s a culture. It does not define who you are as a person. What defines who you are I think is the way you behave and the way you treat others. And the contributions that you try to give to the world to make it better. That’s what defines you,” Wheeler explained.