Completing a CPR unit with the Beaverton School District’s Health Careers program was empowering for Marwa Al Khamees, whose family has a history of high blood pressure and heart disease.
“I was immediately less worried knowing CPR because I knew I could take some action if something were to happen,” the Beaverton High School senior recalled. “I knew last year that I wanted to share this important skill with others so they could potentially save their own loved ones.”
With that goal in mind, Al Khamees led a charge to teach hands-only CPR this spring to 1,100 students at Beaverton High School for her senior project. The scope of the project inspired fellow Health Careers seniors Kaitlyn Barclay and Elizabeth Valenzuela to join in the effort.
“What caught my attention was the fact Marwa and Elizabeth were tackling a project that could really be significant in the community and actually impact lives and be effective,” Valenzuela said.
The students shared their project idea with Health Careers instructor Paula Jacobs, who encouraged them to secure the approval of Beaverton High School Principal Anne Erwin and partner with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue to teach the course.
“Marwa and the group came up with an impressive plan to get their captive audience during students’ physical education and health classes,” Jacobs said. “They were extremely organized and put together a presentation that could be used as a model for other students to follow and implement in other high schools across the district.”
Erwin agreed. “Their plan was very well crafted, and they committed to it 100 percent,” she said. “One of our core values at Beaverton High is ‘Excellence Inspires Us,’ and these students exemplified that value with this project.”
Over the course of two days and seven 45-minute sessions, the girls teamed up with TVF&R’s public education team and firefighters from Station 67 to teach compression-only CPR to their peers.
“Our goal was to teach them how to do CPR so that they would feel comfortable doing it when an emergency happens,” Al Khamees said.
In order to gauge the success of the project, the girls asked students to complete a survey prior to and following their presentation. In the first survey, only 32 percent of the students said they could confidently perform hands-only CPR on a sudden cardiac arrest victim, Al Khamees said. That number increased to 93 percent after students saw the presentation and participated in a hands-on training session.
“We had more people willing to call 911 and do CPR if they saw a person going unconscious rather than ask for help or walk away,” Al Khamees added. “I was very shocked that we actually were able to make a difference this big because teaching your peers can go either way.”
“Seeing the results before and after was really impressive,” Barclay said. “It all turned out better than we expected.”
Knowing that Beaverton High School students are willing to perform hands-only CPR as bystanders and be part of the chain of survival for sudden cardiac arrest victims is encouraging to TVF&R.
“Marwa’s dedication and vision to improve the heart health in her community has been inspirational to TVF&R firefighters and staff,” said TVF&R Public Information Officer Alisa Cour. “Her senior project is a shining example that partnerships between service agencies and community members of all ages are possible and can have far-reaching results.
“When looking to sustain a program that teaches more than 4,000 students this lifesaving skill annually in Beaverton, Marwa’s model is proving that it can be done.”
Students are valuable partners in making safer communities, Cour added. “Thanks to Marwa and her Health Careers peers, we see that youth teaching youth hands-only CPR is how we will eventually reach a community of 450,000 people with this lifesaving skill and improve cardiac arrest survival odds.”