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December 28, 2010 > Empowering students to save lives

Empowering students to save lives

Story and Photos by Miriam G. Mazliach

An excited group of 160 students piled into the multi-use room at Walters Junior High in Fremont on the morning of December 16. Throughout the day, the school's 7th graders would take part in CPR training. What they were about to learn had the potential to save many lives.

Jamie Hintzke, Community Relations Coordinator for Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, explained that in 2007 Alameda County tested a pilot program with both 7th and 10th grade students. The results showed that twice as many 7th graders participated or did outreach to community members than 10th grade students; the 7th graders trained an average of five family members and friends. As a result, it was determined that the CPR7 program would focus on 7th graders.

Developed by the American Heart Association and manufactured by Laerdal Medical, a "CPR Anytime Kit" (retail value of $34.95) is used for training demonstrating a significant investment by the County. The kit was specifically developed to be used by those 12 years of age and older.

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty (District 1) also worked to obtain additional funding for this worthwhile project through Measure A; there are 4,000 7th graders in his district.

Hopefully, over 15,000 7th grade students will be trained. Students will take their kits home and show others how to perform CPR. "This program is an amazing tool and a way to get the message out," Says Hintzke.

All Junior High Schools in Alameda County have been contacted, and to date, 28 middle schools have signed up for the program.

During the session at Walters, students watched and listened intently to a brief video presentation with Tiara Rogers of UC Berkeley's women's basketball team. She recounted her experience of going into sudden cardiac arrest while at a game. Rogers was lucky; someone who knew CPR revived her. She encouraged the students to learn these important techniques.

Walters Junior High's Service Learning teacher, Lisa Alves and P.E. teacher Gary Conlon, who helped lead the sessions, directed the students to inflate their "mini-Anne" CPR manikin models found inside the kit. "The students know how important this is. I think that by young people learning CPR and then teaching family members and others in our community, it is wonderful and empowering," added Alves.

Another instructional video watched by the students taught them the process to follow when an adult suddenly collapses. Students were told the importance of first calling "911" before using the techniques of chest compressions - pushing hard and fast on the middle of the victim's chest.

The first minutes after an emergency are critical as it can take paramedics several minutes or longer to respond. So, through this hands-on experience, students can learn and practice CPR skills needed to save a life.

A second part to the training involved conventional mouth-to-mouth CPR, which brought a few giggles from the junior high school students. But they soon settled into practicing the task of blowing deep breaths into the "victim's" mouth. They learned how to check to see if someone is incapacitated and the correct head tilting and nose pinching technique for giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Students were again reminded to call 911 first, or to ask someone directly to do so for them. In this way, they know that help will be on the way.

When the session ended, each student packed up their Mini-Anne kit, to take home for practice on their own and train family and friends.

Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Andrew Maxwell emphasizes the importance of this project. "Teaching this skill to 7th graders is ideal; they are old enough to understand physiology of the heart and circulation, they are strong enough to perform the skill and are impressionable enough to retain the skill. The program is brilliant!"

As a tribute to their efforts, participating 7th grade students will be invited to a UC Berkeley basketball game in February. The schools and students who have achieved the greatest community outreach will be recognized at half time.

For further information contact Jamie Hintzke, Community Relations Coordinator, Alameda County Health Care Services Agency at (925) 876-2380 or

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