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Old Lyme — A new program is bringing critical skills training to Lyme-Old Lyme High School students.
The course, delivered over several school periods, teaches students cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid, how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) and other safety skills, said Colleen Atkinson and Doug Lo Presti.
The two emergency medical technicians in Old Lyme and Westbrook delivered intensive training to Lyme-Old Lyme juniors and seniors over the course of three days two weeks ago.
The course encompasses both PowerPoint presentations and hands-on training to teach students about cardiac rhythms, resuscitation, and what an AED does and where to locate it in their school, among other topics. Students also learn the average response time of an ambulance - 9 minutes - and how to respond to someone who is drowning, Lo Presti and Atkinson said.
The result is that 125 high school students are now CPR-trained, according to the organizers.
Atkinson and Lo Presti are aiming to make the class a permanent part of the curriculum and deliver the training as often as they can.
"It's just a skill everybody should really know," said Lo Presti.
During the program, students practiced their CPR skills on mannequins in the gymnasium and supported each other as they learned, the organizers said.
"They were cheering each other on," said Atkinson. "It was so great."
The students also became inquisitive and enthusiastic about their assignments.
"Several of them stayed after class to ask questions," said Atkinson.
Lo Presti pointed out that this kind of training can also benefit students as they begin pursuing careers after graduation. He said the course is great career preparation for those entering the military, law enforcement, firefighting and construction, among other careers. Several students became interested in becoming officially CPR certified.
Atkinson and Lo Presti, members of the Old Lyme Ambulance Association who are certified as instructors, also train other groups in town.
The instructors approached the school two years ago with the idea that a critical skills course should be a graduate requirement, according to their news release. Superintendent of Schools Ian Neviaser supported their idea and suggested they speak with the Board of Education, according to the release.
This year, the instructors met with Beth Schreindorfer, a physical education teacher, to build the program into the students' health classes. Bill Rayder, a high school coach, also helped plan the program, they said.
Lo Presti and Atkinson, said they will donate the $1,000 offered by the school for the classes to the school's Physical Education Department "to promote the heart-healthy lifestyle that these classes inspire."
More information about their critical skills education is available at www.training-cpr-first-aid.com.