Teachers, students in Florida learn how to save a life Teachers, students in Florida learn how to save a life

Teachers, students in Florida learn how to save a life

Duke Energy and the American Heart Association train Florida high school teachers and students on CPR and first aid


About 350,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest every year, and less than half of bystanders intervene to give lifesaving CPR. But in Pasco County, Fla., thousands of new lifesavers – most of them teenagers – will be ready to help.

Teachers and coaches there are getting American Heart Association (AHA) Heartsaver First Aid CPR AED training and will share what they learned with students in class. A recent training event taught 30 teachers and coaches those skills. They also received CPR and first-aid kits along with lesson plans, training DVDs and automated external defibrillator (AED) training simulators that help teach lifesaving skills.

Judith Duran and William Baer participate in the Pasco County, Fla., schools' American Heart Association's Heartsaver training.

A $50,000 Duke Energy Foundation grant helped fund the training. Why does Duke Energy care about training teenagers in CPR?

“Because safety is our top priority in everything we do,” said Loretta Murray, the St. Petersburg-based Foundation manager for Duke Energy Florida. “Heartsaver First Aid CPR and AED training connects directly to who we are as a company.”

Pasco County Schools has had a tradition of teaching lifesaving skills, even before a 2021 law required basic training in first aid and CPR for public school students in grades 9 and 11 and encourages it for students in grades 6 and 8.

“First-aid training was part of our curriculum before it was required,” said Matthew Wicks, supervisor of athletics, physical education, health, and driver’s ed in the Office for Leading and Learning in Land O’ Lakes, Fla. “I think it's a great thing that the state of Florida is now requiring it.”

Florida requires every student who graduates from high school to be trained in CPR and first aid. Murray liked the idea of helping school systems achieve their safety goals “and helping students know what to do in an emergency."  

“We work in an industry where, if we're not focused on safety, someone may not make it home to their loved ones at the end of the day. It’s important that all of us feel comfortable assisting anyone at any time. We all need to look out for each other.” 

William Baer practices CPR at the Pasco County schools training session.

Lauren Sanchez, the AHA’s institutional relations advisor, said the Heartsaver training empowers people – including teenagers – to step up in emergencies. “Once trained,” she said, “everyone has the potential to save a life.”

“The training’s focus is on what you – as a bystander – can do while waiting on EMS to arrive,” Sanchez added. “We instruct people to check someone’s pulse first and then to call 911. Next, ask someone nearby to grab an AED. Once you press start, the AED talks you through what to do.”

Some students are eager to learn these skills, said Karen Rothaug, who teaches the HOPE curriculum (a yearlong course in Health Opportunities through Physical Education required by the state) to ninth graders at Pasco County’s Anclote High School. The teens who want to be trained to boost their babysitting business can’t wait. 

Tim Boggess, who teaches health to 125 sixth graders at Seven Springs Middle School in Pasco County (and serves as head football coach and boys track and field coach) said his students look forward to the training.

Learn more about how CPR is changing and saving lives.

“It’s something new and exciting for them – something they can make a difference with at even 10, 11 years old,” he said. “They haven't had many opportunities to make a difference yet, and learning this skill means they can have that opportunity. So, they take it seriously."

Rothaug and the other HOPE teachers at her school plan to devote several class periods to first aid and CPR. “One class isn’t enough,” she said. “They have to do this a few times. We have to make sure it's drilled into them so they’ll remember it if they need it.”

Thousands of students and teachers are being equipped to initiate lifesaving steps.

“People may have a reluctance to help because they don’t know exactly what to do,” Wicks said. “This training helps students have the skills to offer help and the confidence to know they can make a difference.”

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