The Gephardt Institute’s Civic Engagement Fund provides funding and support for initiatives that cultivate community engagement and catalyze positive change. In the 2016-2017 academic year, the fund awarded 41 projects and more than $55,000 to faculty, students, and staff who developed coursework and initiatives that catalyze civic engagement and community partnerships to benefit communities near and far.
Teach Me to Help is a student-run emergency response training program dedicated to instructing and certifying local St. Louis high school students. The project received a St. Louis Projects grant from the Civic Engagement Fund during the spring 2017 funding cycle and is currently led by anthropology major Josh Hollman ’18 and biology majors Jonny Hecktman ’18 and John Froelich ’19. The team received their American Red Cross CPR/First Aid/AED Instructor’s licenses, and their goal is to reduce the risk of preventable deaths attributable to cardiac arrest by giving students the training they need to take action before medical professionals arrive.
This semester, the Teach Me to Help team provided a series of two-part training sessions during a health class at University High School. Over the course of an hour at a recent session, they reviewed lessons on CPR and first aid using an interactive “fact or fiction” exercise, presented on how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED), and led students through a simulation to practice proper CPR and AED use with manikins. After attending both sessions, participants are eligible for certification through the American Red Cross CPR Certification database.
“We have a unique opportunity to empower students to save lives,” commented Josh Hollman. “CPR can triple a person’s chance of surviving cardiac arrest. People in low-income areas are at particularly high risk for heart disease and cardiac arrest, so by targeting our program at high schools in underserved communities, we believe that we can maximize our impact and reduce health disparities in St. Louis.”
Starting in 2018, all high schools in Missouri will be required by law to provide CPR instruction to their students. Since many St. Louis area schools face stringent budget restrictions, the project can increasingly serve as an alternative teaching resource. In addition to providing students with life-saving information and hands-on experience, the team hopes to inspire students to consider and potentially pursue careers in healthcare, helping to close the gap in health disparities across St. Louis and beyond.
“The students at University City High School are smart. We tell them that they can have any career they want as long as they work for it, and we believe that. Our goal is to get them to believe that, and hopefully that leads them down a path to becoming a healthcare professional,” said Hollman.
The team’s efforts are leading to positive results. During a recent session, one of the participants teased another student for looking funny while doing CPR. The other student turned to him and said, “There’s nothing funny about saving lives.” According to Hollman, this is the response that the group seeks as students take the “class seriously and realize its importance.”
Hollman’s team is working to expand the Teach Me to Help program and teach at multiple St. Louis schools. By fall 2018, they hope to have at least six instructors on the team and to serve in another local public high school.
The Civic Engagement Fund grant has allowed Teach Me to Help to provide training sessions free of charge to partner schools. The grant also covers the cost of equipment and fees for certifying students. Hollman recommends the Civic Engagement Fund program to “any students or organizations looking to make a positive impact in the local community.”