It’s been a wild, unforgiving spring, violent tornadoes ripping through his jurisdiction, but now Adam Paluka’s focus is shifting to the heat, a relentless, oppressive blanket that will soon roll in and cover Oklahoma for the next several months.
“That’s the thing about the weather here,” says the Class of 2003 alumnus. “There’s always another phenomenon right around the corner.”
Paluka is the Community Relations and Social Media Manager for the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) in Tulsa, an agency that works with independent ambulance companies to provide emergency services to 17 communities in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City area. His job is to ensure the agency is seen in the best possible light, something he’s excelled at ever since leaving his position as a television news reporter with FOX23 three years ago.
“It feels good to have a job where you’re responsible for providing support to the community,” he says. “No matter where you live or what walk of life you’re from, we are here to take care of you.”
In 2015, Paluka and his team dominated the Bronze Quill Awards presented by the Tulsa Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). He worked on teams that garnered recognition for initiatives such as Work at EMSA Week, CPR Education and Paramedic Response Time Change.
Perhaps his most meaningful accolade to date, however, came at this year’s IABC show when his team was honored with a Bronze Quill for their EMSA Hispanic Outreach Program.
“[The recent award] meant a great deal because there’s a lot of distrust between the Hispanic community and local law enforcement and emergency organizations,” says Paluka. “Even in an emergency, they’re often hesitant to call because they’re worried someone might try to deport them. However, our work has continued to make inroads with that community, and that’s something I’m really proud of.”
That work includes distributing bilingual literature to residents, attending local festivals and having EMTs visit schools with a high percentage of Hispanic students.
Where it all Began
Paluka very much believes his desire to help others, to positively influence a community as it works to achieve a greater good, is an ambition that was born out of his Prairie experience.
“My mom passed while I was in high school, and I’m not sure what would’ve happened to me if I didn’t have the support of the Prairie community,” he says. “Everyone was there for me. The idea of a village raising a child very much applies to me — I believe the support I received was instrumental in choosing the path I did.”
Whether it’s in his role with the EMSA or his busy volunteer schedule — Paluka regularly sits with 2nd and 3rd graders to help them with their reading skills in advance of a state-mandated comprehension test they’ll take in 4th grade — Paluka seems intent on paying back all the love and support he received while in Wind Point.
“I’m of the mind that if you’re going to accept help from someone, then it’s only right that, as time and opportunity allow, you turn around and give help to others.”
Something to Think About
During his career as a TV reporter, Adam Paluka interviewed lots of famous folks, names like Hilary Clinton, Elie Wiesel and Joe Paterno.
He enjoyed doing stories that made his viewers think, and so there’s a hint of irony in how the EMSA approached him — giving him something intriguing to mull over while he was working with FOX23 in Tulsa.
“It was a situation where, being a reporter and constantly working with various members of the community, they knew I had existing relationships with different city officials,” he says. “They sort of swooped in with the opportunity.”
It was one Paluka was happy to seize.
In his position he’s able to engage with a wide swath of citizens — everyone from residents to non-profit organizers to elected officials — as he highlights the benefits of living, working and governing in a city served by the EMSA.
“The reality is very few people will actually ride in ambulances in their lifetime,” he says. “Yet, we want to be seen in a positive light and respected as we work to show people the positive things about their communities.”