A Great Honor, the entire NJIC congratulates you!!!!
Amanda Sallemi’s career has been inspired by a loss that occurred at the very beginning.
Her time playing softball at Emerson High School? That featured many more wins than losses, including a much sought-after sectional title this spring.
The salutatorian of the Class of 2021 admits, however, that the game was a means to an end.
“Medicine will be my future,” she said. “Softball was just a way to help me be myself and get to where I wanted to be in the future.”
Sallemi, 17, juggled catching for the Cavos, being vice president of the National Honor Society at Emerson, tutoring fellow students and working as an Emergency Medical Responder. Her senior year culminated with not only her softball squad’s first North 1, Group 1 championship since 2003 but also the Charlie McGill Scholarship Award, presented by The Record and NorthJersey.com.
With those accolades to her name, she will head to Rutgers University Honors College and follow either a pre-med or pre-physician’s assistant track – a path to which she committed as a 16-year-old volunteer EMR.
‘I lost my patient’
Maria Sallemi helped foster her daughter Amanda’s interest in medicine by making a drastic career change.
“She went from interior designer to nurse at age 40 – so, yeah, quite drastic,” Amanda said.
Maria’s studying and training to become an RN took place when the youngest of her two children was roughly between the ages of 6 and 12 – “a very impressionable age,” Amanda astutely noted.
“I saw her grit and resilience and her fascination. So, I would sit next to her, guess at the random questions on her test, and I would learn from her,” Amanda said. “In order to help her study, she would explain what she was learning.”
At 16, as soon as she was old enough, Sallemi joined the Westwood Volunteer Ambulance Corps as an EMR. The very first call on which she worked was for a cardiac arrest patient in September 2019.
“Unfortunately, I lost my patient,” she said. “I lost my first patient ever.
“I cried alone in the back of the ambulance, and the crew had to help me – I’m like, ‘I cannot believe that just happened.’ Every one of the corps was like, ‘OK, so is she leaving? Is she done? Is it over [after] this one thing?’”
Just the opposite, in fact.
“I stayed for two years, and that proved a lot to the people I was surrounded by,” Sallemi said. “And it proved something to myself… that I have the capability of seeing this time and time again and still wanting to help.”
That dedication has been evident in all her endeavors, and when it came to balancing softball and the ambulance corps, she had the full support of both her teams.
“The people of the ambulance corps were flexible,” Sallemi said. “But it also took a lot of commitment on my part to make sure that I’m putting in the time to serve my community.”
“Throughout the season, she was committed on Tuesdays, where she had to leave our games at 6:30 if they did run that long,” Emerson coach Nancy Graf said. “We, fortunately, did not run into that. But that just shows the measure of her dedication.”
As did her work leading up to the North 1, Group 1 title game against Kinnelon on June 12.
“We played our state-sectional on a Saturday, and I think it was a 2 o’clock game,” Graf said. “She actually worked an overnight shift that Friday night. We had a little bit of a team dinner, and she actually left the dinner at like 8 o’clock to go on shift.”
In the Cavos’ 9-4 win the following day, Sallemi batted 2-for-4 out of the leadoff spot, doubled and drove in a run, scored two more and called every pitch thrown by sophomore Natalie Graham.
Sallemi latched on to many of her main hobbies when she was about 6, of which softball was just one.
“I began the martial arts at age 6, well, because my father and I would always watch Bruce Lee movies every Saturday,” she said. “I earned my taekwondo first-degree black belt in 2017, and I earned my second degree in 2019,” which aided in her efforts as a mixed martial arts instructor.
“I do have a lot of diverse interests, but the thing is, it’s not too many,” Sallemi added. “I tend to be very dedicated to the few I pursue.”
Next on the list is training to become an Emergency Medical Technician this summer. One of the requirements to take the National Registry exam is to be at least 18 years of age.
“I’m taking the EMT course so that it ends three days after my 18th birthday, so I can just take the exam then,” she said.
Sallemi was recruited by a few colleges to play softball and has not ruled out future involvement in the game. For the immediate future, though, her medical career will take precedence.
“She loves softball and has such a great passion for it, but she still has great passion for what she’s trying to pursue academically,” Graf said. “She’s a kid who balanced those [interests] and was able to make hard decisions.”
Greg Tartaglia is a high school sports reporter for NorthJersey.com. For full access to live scores, breaking news and analysis from our Varsity Aces team, subscribe today. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter and download our app. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @njtags13