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These Hands Save Lives

Two dozen 9th and 10th graders, dressed smartly in their school uniforms, gathered on the cafeteria floor. Each student kneeled in front of a Mini-Anne – an inflatable, portable mannequin – and used the palms of their hands to pump its chest to the beat of the 1970s Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive.”

It wasn’t your average Tuesday morning at KIPP DC: College Preparatory, a charter school located in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C.  Five instructors from the American Heart Association Training Center at the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates (MFA) led the students in a 45-minute Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Automated External Defibrillation (AED) training on May 8, part of a two-day program during which about 200 students were trained.

“Me and my ambulance are about 7 to 12 minutes away from your house,” said Alex Cullen, one of the instructors who is a paramedic andcurrent GW student, “which means that you’re going to have to do this for 7 to 12 minutes.”

A chorus of groans went up around the room. “I’m tired!” “My hands hurt!” they said after a few minutes of chest compressions. Cullen reminded them that “it’s going to be a lot easier when it’s a real person who you know. You’ll feel motivated to keep going.”

The trainings were organized by ReStart DC, a program of the GW Cheney Cardiovascular Institute that aims to increase survival rates of sudden cardiac arrest, and the MFA Department of Emergency Medicine’s Training Center, which trains over 5,000 people in CPR and resuscitation annually. The KIPP DC training was funded by an educational grant from the Medtronic Foundation.

Cullen was joined by Training Center Manager and GW graduate William “Billy” Fritz, paramedic Danielle Dunn, and EMTs Megan Krentsa ‘13 and Scott Crawford ‘09. Accompanied by a video, the instructors showed students two steps to save a life: Call 9-1-1 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest. They also demonstrated how to shock the heart with an AED, which the students practiced on their Mini-Annes with non-live paddles.

"It has been such a great experience partnering with the George Washington University on this important and potentially life-saving training,” said Cheryl Borden, founding principal of KIPP DC: College Preparatory. “Our students are excited about what they learned and have been sharing that information with fellow students, staff, and family.”

Mya Murphy and Faith Turner, both 9th graders at the school, said they were having a lot of fun. “It’s a good workout!” Murphy said.

“Don’t be afraid to do CPR or put an AED on someone,” Cullen urged. “It’s not going to hurt them. Trying is the best thing you can do. Does everyone know where the AED in this school is?” he asked. “Nurses office!” the students shouted in unison. They had already known where it was, but now they knew how to use it, too.

Lawrence Davin, a 10th grader, said CPR was not as difficult as he expected. “I’m definitely going to show my mom and dad. I don’t think they know how to do this,” he said.

As the students departed, they were each given a black T-shirt emblazoned with a phrase that captured the message of empowerment for the day: “My Hands Save Lives…What Can Yours Do?”