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Monfredo: Students Learn Life-Saving Skills in the WPS

Thursday, March 01, 2018


All school systems have a responsibility to reach out and not only teach academics but skills that will make a difference in a student’s life and in the community.  We need to inform students about wellness … the importance of eating healthy, fitness in their lives, the dangers of drugs, and how they can impact their community with Life-Saving Skills by knowing CPR and the use of the Heimlich approach.

About two years ago I initiated a committee composed of Carol Manning our Health and Physical Education Liaison, Deborah McGovern our director of School Nurses, Patricia Mallios and Blair Young from the American Heart Association to see what we could do to teach our students about hands-on CPR and explore teaching the Heimlich as well.

Thus, after raising the necessary funds within the community we purchased mannequins and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) teaching machines.  The goal, with approval from administration, was to have our students in grades 7-12 learn how to use hands-on CPR, use the AED machines, learn the Heimlich method and hopefully teach others in the community. My long-range goal is to have Worcester be a “heart safe city”  for as you may know Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.  Every year one in four deaths are caused by heart disease.  The most common reason many people die from cardiac arrest is that no one nearby knew CPR or, if they did know it, they didn’t attempt to use it. CPR can make a difference between life and death of a loved one.  It can double or triple a cardiac arrest victims chance of survival. Teaching our students these life-saving skills will put thousands of qualified lifesavers in our community year after year.   Also, thanks to the Josh Thibodeau Hearts Foundation our schools have continued to add on AED equipment as an additional way of saving a life and through the Foundation heart screening has taken place in the district. This is a family who lost their son to undetected heart disease and has made it their mission to screen as many students as possible for hidden heart disease and to donate heart-saving equipment.

This year thanks to the work of Carol Manning, a grant was written to secure funding for a Heimlich program in our elementary schools.  The Heimlich Heroes program teaches young people how to do the Heimlich maneuver. It was created by Deaconess Associations, Inc. (DAI), with support from The Heimlich Institute..

Through Heimlich Heroes training, students will recognize when someone is choking, and become confident to step in and save a life. Heimlich Heroes believes anyone can save a life. Aimed at teaching children, and historically successful, the program is well-designed and effective. The program is specifically designed to instruct young people how to do the Heimlich maneuver. This program teaches them how to:

  • Recognize the signs of choking
  • Understand how to respond if a person is actually choking
  • Learn ways to help prevent/minimize the risk of choking
  • Increase student confidence, independence, and self-esteem 


The program includes video training and age-appropriate note-taking tools. Students LOVE the hands-on practice with the specially designed training dolls.

According to Manning, the Worcester Public Schools is currently teaching every student in grades 2-3, but many schools have taught this to the entire student body.   She acknowledged that all students were very receptive and excited about learning this life-saving approach.

The program is basically free but the district must purchase the specially designed dolls. Each cost $150.  The district currently has 10 but with 30 schools/30 teachers, there is an awful lot of sharing.  According to Manning, this makes it very difficult.  She is currently working on grants for 20 more dolls and has applied through the Worcester Educational Development Foundation for a grant through the Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

Having attended a few of the instructional sites, I found the students to be energized about learning this life-saving procedure as was the case at  City View Elementary.   The program is under the direction of Physical Education teacher John Milewski. After his students received their training, students instructed me on the process.  As my student instructor stated to me, “Every second counts if someone is choking.  You need to feel for the belly button and just under the ribs squeeze in and up, in and up…  You should, first of all, ask someone to call 911.”

Each mannequin has a small device in its mouth so if you did the procedure correctly the device would fly out of the mouth.  The student instructors at City View did an awesome job and were very proud of their success.  Some indicated to me that they are going home to inform their parents what they learned in class today.

Programs such as these need the support of the public and our business partners for the schools do not have additional funding for such programs.   If you are interested in supporting our schools to teach children life-saving skills a donation can be sent to Brian Allen, our chief financial officer at 20 Irving Street with a memo on the check – CPR-Heimlich training.  Groups or individuals donating will be acknowledged at one of school committee meetings as a way of thanking them for their assistance.

These programs are good news for our city and we need to continue to train our students about the importance of saving a life. Students trained as rescuers might help save a life at home, at school and at public places such as malls, health clubs, or at events such as family reunions.


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