First aid in the classroom

Instructor Diana Woytiuk leads a first aid class at Wesmor Public High School on Thursday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Kobe Faval has read books and course outlines about giving CPR, but this is the closest he’s ever come to the real thing.

It’s Thursday morning, and Faval is one of roughly a dozen people, most of them Wesmor Public High School students, busy taking part in a Canadian Red Cross first aid training program. A smattering of practice dolls are spread across the floor in the school library, while the certified instructor, Diana Woytiuk, goes through the delicate process of what to do when an infant stops breathing.

It’s not an easy topic to talk about, but from Faval’s perspective, it’s a vital one.

“I’ve been in some situations where people fell over, were unresponsive and I had no idea what to do,” the Grade 12 student says during a short break. “I was like one of those scared people (yelling) call 911. Now, after this course, I’ll feel like I’ll be able to say, ‘call 911’ while I do my thing. I’ll feel a lot more confident after this course, hopefully.”

Faval and his Wesmor classmates aren’t the only students taking time out of their school day to receive their first aid certification. In 2017, Parkland Ambulance and the Prince Albert branch of the Royal Bank of Canada began partnering together to fund first aid training classes for students in Prince Albert high schools.

In 2017, they had enough for classes in two schools. This year, they’ve got enough for five.

“It’s a skill development that I think is just needed in life,” says RBC senior account manager Ralph Boychuk, one of three RBC employees on hand to take part in the class. “It’s a life skill and it’s very important to have as many people training in first aid (as possible). If there’s ever an accident or something of need, the more people who understand how to treat, or at least help, people in distress (the better).”

RBC’s community foundation donates $1,000 per school for each first aid training session, and if Parkland Ambulance has their way, the partnership will last long into the future.

Parkland public affairs director Lyle Karsiuk said they’ve done plenty of small projects with RBC in the past, but this was an opportunity to fill and important need in the community. He’s hopeful the sessions planned for the fall of 2018 won’t be the last.

“Often in schools they’ve got a little bit of money here and there to piecemeal make a program happen, but sometimes they don’t have enough to make a certified course,” Karasiuk explains.

“Unfortunately, there are fees involved. There are books, materials, instructional times, those sorts of things that go with a course. To have a partner like RBC come on board and make a commitment to our young people’s education is huge.”

The program isn’t limited to in classroom training either. Students like those at Wesmor will also take part in an online learning module before they ever take a live first aid class.

Karasiuk said the class not only gives students important emergency skills, it also helps with employers when applying for jobs.

That’s an added benefit for students like Faval, who say classes like this should be available to as many Prince Albert high school students as possible.

“I feel like (emergencies) could happen anywhere, you know,” he explains shortly before heading back to class. “Even if it’s just you and one friend, as long as that one friend knows what to do, it’s just that much more helpful.”