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U.S. Military Middle School Students Learn CPR in Pilot Program

Many infant mannequins were spread out on a table at the Ramstein Middle School library on Thursday, where health class for eighth graders was held. The class wasn't practicing how to change diapers—but how to save a life.

The students are part of what their teachers say is a unique pilot program in the military school system. RMS is believed to be the only Department of Defense Education Activity school certifying eighth graders in adult and pediatric CPR and first aid, said health teacher Sam Jablonski and school nurse Ann Evans, who together created and lead the program.

Students receive a "certificate of completion" from Ramstein's 86th Medical Group after about 10 hours of coursework and hands-on practice in adult, child and infant cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid and automated external defibrillator use.

The program also relies on volunteers from the military, certified Red Cross instructors from Ramstein and the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, who help with the student training.

"We couldn't do it without the support of the community," Jablonski said.

Jablonski said some students have already had to use their training.

"Last year, we had kids who rescued a friend who was choking," she said. "It was a combination of Girl Scout training and health class."

Though not currently a requirement in DODEA, mandatory CPR training for high schoolers is a growing trend stateside. More than 20 states require CPR training for graduation, according to a Mayo Clinic commentary published in 2015 that advocated for CPR training to be mandated by law in all states for high school graduation. The American Heart Association's "CPR in Schools" campaign initially was aimed at training teachers, the commentary authors said. But several examples of students successfully performing CPR on adults led to a wider campaign.

Immediate CPR can double or triple chances of survival after cardiac arrest, according to the American Heart Association, often by buying people time until an ambulance or AED arrives.

Evans and Jablonski said middle school is "the perfect age" for kids to learn the potentially lifesaving technique.

"When they see something wrong, they want to jump into action and offer assistance," Evans said. "If someone is injured, they want to do something."

Jablonski added that at 13 and 14 years of age, "child care is often a task delegated to them as an older sibling." Completing the Red Cross modules validates their experiences and puts them in a position where "they can really help in emergencies," she said.

Last year, 65 students earned certificates. This year, about 240 students will go through the program, Jablonski said. A future goal is to get the students Red Cross-babysitter certified.

On Thursday, students took turns practicing child CPR and administrating an AED on first aid mannequins laid out on purple yoga mats in the library.

Before starting, they were reminded that in an emergency involving a child they need to obtain consent if a parent is present before starting CPR; call 112 (the emergency number in Germany); get an AED and first aid kit; and do 30 chest compressions followed by two breaths.

Students seemed intent on practicing their skills.

"This could happen in real life," Ian Porter said. "It's good for us to be able to handle situations like that."

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