Dos Palos High School hosted its first CPR training course on Jan. 18. Taking place during the students’ English period throughout the school day, students were offered the chance to learn about CPR and even practice some procedures on manikins.

The 50-minute classes were led by district nurse, Priscilla Whiteaker, and RIGGS ambulance staff to bring DPHS one step closer to being a “Heart safe school,” by preparing students and staff to handle situations of sudden cardiac arrest.

The idea to introduce teens to basic resuscitation techniques was inspired by Project Adam, the nationwide initiative to spread awareness and prevention of deaths due to sudden heart failure. “Once you have the [CPR] skill” Nurse Whiteaker says, “you have it. You don’t unlearn it.”

Whitaker is no stranger to the importance of CPR awareness, as earlier in her career she had worked with the school board to increase the number of automated external defibrillator (AED) kits that schools in Merced County had access to from just nine to 27.

The Dos Palos training course idea even occurred while Whitaker was getting her CPR certificate renewed. After approaching one of the RIGGS members who gave the demonstration, she was excited to learn that the ambulance team already had a program in place for visiting schools and teaching young adults the basics of both CPR and heart health. After some more planning, and the reserving of 30 manikins, RIGGS paid a visit to DPHS.

The training consisted of a brief video presentation before students were given the opportunity to get hands-on practice with chest compressions, which to some, was an eye-opening experience.

“They recognized what went into doing compressions, and how long it can take,” says Whitaker, who was excited to see so many students take an interest in health and safety.

: Retired Los Banos City Fire Chief, Mason Hurley, helps out during the training by providing some one-on-one guidance to Dos Palos High student.

Though students will not be awarded the CPR certificate for completing the training course, those who wish to become CPR certified now at least have a firm step forward on their road to a certificate.

The next step in becoming a “Heart Safe School,” according to Whitaker, is to certify more of the school’s staff. While many of the faculty are already certified, it can never hurt to ensure that each classroom has at least one person who can lend a competent helping hand.

Though nothing is currently in development, Dos Palos School Board is extremely interested in the potential of a CPR class for parents. Until then, there are many resources both in the community and online that those interested can access to help keep each heart beating.

More information on how to better prepare for instances of sudden heart failure can be found online on the Project Adam website,

Dos Palos High students listen to the CPR instructions of keeping to the beat of the Bee Gees song, Stayin’ Alive while administering compressions to the “patient”.