Local girl scouts lead effort to train hundreds in Hands-Only CPR, help Muirlands Middle School receive Heart Safe School Accreditation

Posted: Monday, October 29th 2018


For nearly four years, members of La Jolla Girl Scout Troop 3803, Selma Hyytinen, Maggie Johnson, Natalie Saham, Allison Foerster and Amber Watt, have been raising community awareness about sudden cardiac arrest, and have assisted in the training of more than 600 middle school students and staff members in Hands-Only CPR/AED (Automated External Defibrillator) use.

While working toward their Girl Scout Silver Award, the troop also completed the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation’s (SADS) Heart Safe School accreditation process to make Muirlands Middle School the first public school in California to achieve this distinction.

These students, along with the Girl Scouts of San Diego, San Diego Project Heart Beat, American Heart Association – San Diego, and San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten, gathered today to share their journey, and celebrate the school’s accreditation and the students’ Girl Scout Silver award.

“This is everything I know that is good and right about public education. About the American Heart Association. About the Girls Scouts USA.” said Superintendent Cindy Marten. “This is what happens when great organizations come together to support the vision of leaders like you girls. I am so proud and so impressed by what you have done.

“You girls are leading the way for something that will happen across the district, this state and this nation because you have shown through your leadership how to make it happen. You are amazing leaders and I thank you for what you have done.” 

Heart Safe School Accreditation for Muirlands Middle School is the culmination of a four-year journey for the girls in troop 3803 that began after Maggie Johnson’s father went into cardiac arrest while working out. CPR saved his life.

In 2014, Troop 3803 began partnering with San Diego Project Heart Beat to provide CPR/AED training to elementary and middle schools in La Jolla. To expand their efforts, the girls reached out to San Diego Unified School District for assistance. In 2016, the district partnered with the American Heart Association, County Supervisor Ron Roberts, and the County of San Diego, who provided a $100,000 grant to purchase Hands-only CPR training kits for students across the district. These additional kits helped the students train more students at Bird Rock Elementary, where their efforts began, and Muirlands Middle.

“The American Heart Association has a vision to train thousands of young life-savers across our county, and with funding support from Supervisor Roberts and leadership support from Superintendent Cindy Marten, they were able to bring that vision to life at Muirlands and throughout the District,” said Jennifer Sobotka, American Heart Association San Diego Division Executive Director. “And that vision is catching on, as we continue to see more examples across the district of students and teachers being empowered through education and taking action, teaching CPR, learning CPR, saving lives….”

The Heart Safe School Accreditation program consists of 7 elements aimed at raising awareness and preventing sudden cardiac arrest. These include: Screening/Risk Assessment, Care Plans, Emergency Medical Response Drills, Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs), CPR Training for Staff, CPR Training for Students and Sudden Cardiac Awareness Activity/Event/Fundraiser.

To achieve this accreditation, the girls:

  • Prepared a presentation about their intention and met with then Principal Harlan Klein to gain his approval to begin the accreditation process.
  • Reached out to San Diego Project Heart Beat to request Hands-Only CPR/AED training for the school’s entire 7th grade class of more than 300 students in 2017 and again in 2018.
  • Assisted in each of the 12 training sessions in 2017 and 2018 (six per year).
  • Studied information on the SADS website about Emergency Medical Drills, prepared detailed checklists, and then collaborated with Muirlands’ staff to run drills at the school.
  • Conducted, timed, and videotaped three Emergency Medical Drills.
  • Trained fellow students how to use the Pulse Point app to locate nearby AEDs.
  • Created and funded an “Identify the Most AEDs” contest to educate Muirlands Middle students about where these life-saving devices are located throughout the community.
  • Raised awareness of Sudden Cardiac Arrest by hosting a booth at the Muirlands Rocks community festival in May 2018.

The girls have since moved on from Muirlands Middle School and attend other La Jolla- area schools, including La Jolla High, The Bishop’s School and Francis Parker, where they are continuing their efforts to train students in Hands-only CPR.

“You have proven yourself determined leaders dedicated to improving your community,” Girl Scouts San Diego CEO Carol Dedrich told the girls. “By earning the Silver Award, you demonstrate you are a person of courage. And you’re capable of speaking up and devoting yourself to a worthy cause. As Silver Award Girl Scouts, you have grown in your confidence, taking on a challenge that no one else has. You strengthen your character knowing that good intentions count for little until your ability and determination produce results. I want to thank Selma, Maggie, Natalie, Allison and Amber for bringing us here today because you have made the world a better place.”

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