When senior Bianca Weber was trying to think of a project idea for her Gold Award, the highest recognition in Girl Scouts, she ran into a problem. Noting that Chatham is a well-developed community, Weber said she initially saw very few developmental gaps that required filling.
That was until she remembered an event from her freshman year when a fellow student collapsed on the school’s front steps.
“He required CPR, and there was nobody to help him,” she said. “I started thinking to myself, ‘If teachers don’t know CPR, how will students feel in school where they are supposed to feel safe?’”
From there, Weber, who volunteers on the , saw an opening, as well as an opportunity to use her experience and knowledge base.
“For the Gold Award, the Girl Scouts want it to be a project that will stand in the community, and it needs to be related to one of your interests,” she said. “I’m an EMT, and one of the things you notice is that you are often dealing with CPR.”
Certifying the Schools
At first, the idea was to offer the classes to just the high school teachers because she said she could communicate with those teachers best.
However, after considerable success at the high school, teachers at other schools throughout the district began getting wind of it and requested the classes be brought to them.
As a result, Weber has now organized the courses to included teachers from all schools within the district.
Although some teachers, including gym instructors and those who coach sports teams, are already required to be certified, Weber said CPR is a very good life skill for all teachers to have.
“I think it’s every teacher’s greatest fear, even if a kid passes out in class because they’re tired,” she said. “It’s like, oh my God, what should I do?”
Weber said teachers were interested from the start but were worried about the cost and time commitment – the course usually takes six hours – of the classes. Fortunately, they were able to waive all costs and cut the class down to an hour and a half.
Chatham High School teacher Christopher Carroll said having CPR-certified teachers in the classroom will make a serious difference if a tragedy ever does occur, helping to keep someone alive until a nurse or emergency responders arrives.
And, he added, the reaction among teachers has been very positive.
“Many teachers have signed up and found the classes to be beneficial, well-taught and very well-organized by Bianca,” Carroll, who taught Weber in U.S. history, said.
Organizing the Classes
Weber explained that the Gold Award requirements allow her only to organize and supervise the project, not to actually execute it, which coincidentally matches up with CPR course training requirements.
“To CPR certify, you have to be an instructor and be 21,” she said.
Only 17, Weber walks around and helps during the classes while one of her crew members actually serves as the instructor.
“They have to do all the speaking, so I’m not allowed,” she said. “But when we do scenarios, I’m allowed to walk around and help them with the correct finger and hand placements.”
Weber also does all of the pre-class organization, handling all of the paperwork, connecting with all interested school principals and nurses and scheduling the classes.
“Basically, the Girl Scouts are trying to teach us leadership and supervision,” Weber said.
However, as a member of Chatham’s emergency squad for the past year and a half, she already has plenty of opportunities to show leadership skills and the capacity to care for others.
Already a hospital volunteer since freshman year of high school, Weber wasn’t sure she could handle the time commitment of being an EMT when her friend suggested they both take the required course.
“I ended up taking the course and loving it,” she said. “Once you join the squad, they make you feel so welcome that you can’t help but love it.”
Her crew chief Peter Herslow said that, as the only ambulance service covering Chatham, it is great to have volunteers who like what they do and even better to have ones that are good at it.
“And Bianca is good at it,” Herslow said. “As her crew chief, I have watched her progress in the treatment of patients. Do not forget that she is only 17 years old, and yet she performs like a veteran.”
In addition to enjoying the company of her squad team members and excelling at the opportunity, Weber said she simply has always enjoyed helping people, which has influenced her desire to become a pediatric ICU doctor, a goal she has had since she was 5.
“My mom said if you look at my report card when I was younger, they would use adjectives, like nurturing, caring and tending to others,” she said. “I have a younger brother who I’m very close with, and I’ve always been very protective of him.”
Soon to be off at college, Weber is never at a loss for how to fill her scheduler, with Girl Scouts, two field hockey teams, tennis matches, performances in the school band where she plays the flute and all honors and advanced placement courses in school.
“I go through the list every year, and there’s nothing I would cross off,” she said.