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Otisfield woman living life to fullest
OTISFIELD — A member of a volunteer fire department, ski patrol, truck driver, photographer and aspiring physician, Alissa Leonard says her plan is to grab every opportunity she can and run with it.
"Life is short," says Leonard, who is a mere 21. "If something interests me, I'm like, 'Yeah, I'll do it. Why not?'"
Leonard grew up in Harrison. She graduated from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in 2009 and currently lives in Otisfield.
Leonard says she still has some training to complete, but that she is officially a member of the Otisfield Volunteer Fire Department.
She says what got her interested in the fire department was doing ski patrol at Shawnee Peak while she was still in high school.
"It exposed me to the medical part," she says.
"As a sophomore, they offered a program of student ski patrol. You go through a year of working at the mountain ... I decided to continue with it, so I did my outdoor emergency care, which are the credentials you need to be a ski patroler."
In ski patrol, Leonard says she provides emergency medical and rescue services to skiers and snowboarders, as well as opens and closes the ski trails and checks their condition.
Leonard has been on ski patrol for six winters, and says she plans to continue doing it for a while.
Her boyfriend, Jesse Cottingham, was also an inspiration, she says. "He is also on ski patrol, became an EMT and also decided to join the fire department. He inspired me to, as well. I've been interested in it, but never found the time or place that worked," she explains.
She graduated with an Associate's Degree in General Studies this spring from Central Maine Community College. She said she's still unclear, however, about what she wants to do as far as a career goes.
That's because she wants to do it all, she says.
"I was doing some architecture," while in college, says Leonard. "I did the CADD program at the high school, but now, not so much. ... maybe as a hobby."
Leonard says she's currently enrolled in liberal studies at CMCC, and has been thinking about studying pre-med to possibly become a physician, but she's still not positive.
"I want to keep going to school. I like school," she says, "but I am also trying to work to pay bills."
She also works part-time at Café Nomad in Norway, where she's been making sandwiches and salads since August. "Which has been awesome," she says, because she's able to work with fresh greens from the farm.
"Over the summer, I got into gardening, and did my own little garden at my house for the first time," she said. Meanwhile, she worked at Moose Pond Arts and Ecology in Otisfield helping Scott and Zizi Vlaun with harvest day once a week.
"There was a couple weeks' overlap where I was helping with harvest and coming to work and making sandwiches and salads with the greens," said Leonard, who has recently become a member of the Fare Share Co-op in Norway.
But that's not all, she says.
Leonard also has her Class A Commercial Driver's License, which she earned through the Oxford Hills Technical School. "One of the vehicles at the fire department is an older vehicle you need your CDL to drive, with a tanker endorsement, which I have," Leonard explained.
She said she's still not sure, however, if she wants to work as an EMT or fight fires. "I just want to check it out," she says.
Some of Leonard's other interests include snowboarding, swimming, drawing, photography and riding her motorcycle – a 2001 Suzuki Savage 650.
"I got my motorcycle license in high school," she said. She became interested in buying a motorcycle when she took tractor-trailer instruction. "I was like, sure," she said. "I got my license and just finally got a reliable bike."
Leonard likes to ride for fun, she says. "I'm pretty active."
She also says in high school she was big into photography – at one point she had a darkroom at her house, where she enjoyed developing mostly black and white film. She's even photographed a couple of weddings.
"I also took a welding class the other day," Leonard added. "It was so much fun! It's like, how many different jobs can I do?" she laughed.
Leonard says she even manages to squeeze in time to travel, and does it for a cause.
In 2010, she traveled to Cuba through a group called Let Cuba Live with Pastors for Peace, she said. "We did it as a protest against the blockade," she said.
"We were there for 10 days visiting hospitals, schools, foster care centers and went to a few different political talks and events to see what they're dealing with in the country," she explained. Because she didn't speak Spanish, it was hard to mingle, she said.
She was even looking at the Latin American School of Medicine while she was there, she says, which is a six- to seven-year program.
"You work in an underserved community, but it doesn't have to be in [a place like] Haiti; there are underserved communities in Maine," she said.
But she's not ready to flee America just yet.
"I have a lot of things I'm interested in," she laughed, including being a substitute bus driver at the high school. She is currently working toward getting her passenger and school bus endorsements for her CDL.
At 21 years old, Leonard says she already looking into purchasing her own property and a house, locally.
"I've looked at probably a dozen houses," she said. She's been saving money since she was 15 and has been buying her own things ever since.
It's really got her thinking about whether she wants to pursue medical school or continue working, but full-time, perhaps as a school bus driver while still going to school part-time. She's wanted to a be a bus driver since she was little, she says. "I thought, wouldn't it be cool to drive a bus?"
Not to mention it'd be another big responsibility, she says. From firefighting to ski patrolling to bus driving and eventually being a physician, Leonard says she is passionate about helping others.
She's also interested in discovering who she really is as a person.
"It's really cliché to say, 'you only live once,' and I really don't like that saying, but it's true," says Leonard. "I just want to be able to do what I can do ... I don't want to sit around. This is life, and I want to live it now."
LEARNING — Alissa Leonard, shown here, is learning to weld. Leonard says she's all about trying new things.