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Lethbridge student Dominique Pietras, 18, has been peer teaching the ACT High School CPR program ever since she learned it in Grade 10.

After dedicating much of her high school life to first aid training, she graduated from Catholic Central High School with plans to become a paramedic.

Dominique’s school is special in that it allows for a specialization in sports medicine.

“I put passion in to what I do, and I take pride in my basic and athletic first aid skills,” said Dominique.

“I thought the ACT High School CPR Program was really great,” she said. “I loved getting to do the hands on training with the mannequins.”

“It gave me a big sense of responsibility and I take pride in keeping my skills up to date,” said Dominique. “I wouldn’t even have thought of getting certified if I hadn’t taken the course, and then I wouldn’t have discovered what it is that I want to do.”

After taking the program in combination with her school’s other first aid courses, Dominique was able to put her skills to use several times throughout her high school career. She has taped ankles on sports fields, checked pulses of people who were having trouble breathing, and once at the community pool where she works she assisted someone who was choking on a small candy.

“I just wanted to get her to start breathing and I was actually able to clear her throat with my finger, and then I started to do breaths,” said Dominique. “My first thought was my first aid and CPR training. Nothing else went through my mind. I just followed my instincts.”

But Dominique didn’t stop at her own training – she then went on to assist her teachers in delivering the lifesaving program to her peers. In her graduating year, the ACT Foundation, in partnership with the STARS Foundation, honoured Dominique with a Student Leadership Award for work.

“I peer teach CPR in the sports medicine classes, and I show the students the proper technique,” explained Dominique, who also trains other students in athletic first aid, such as learning emergency signals on the field and how to tape ankles and wrists.

“Dominique is very dedicated, she is very conscientious and very peer friendly,” said her phys-ed teacher Diane Delbello. “She is wonderful. She is very confident, but very levelheaded. She is committed to first aid and her students respect her for that.”

“I’ve had so many compliments from the coaches,” Diane continued. “They count on her and she has become just as much a part of the coaching staff as she is a student.”

“We are so impressed with Dominique and the initiative she has taken to help teachers empower her fellow students to save lives,” said Sandra Clarke, Executive Director of the ACT Foundation. “We are thrilled to present her with ACT’s Student Leadership Award. She is a wonderful example of community leadership and a model for her peers.”

“STARS congratulates Dominique on her achievement, her community leadership and her involvement in making a difference,” said Dr. Greg Powell, President and CEO of the STARS Foundation.

“The skills acquired through the ACT High School CPR Program go beyond the response ‘in the moment,’” Dr. Powell continued. “The training also provides transferrable life skills in rapid decision making and taking appropriate action when required to do so. We are proud to be partnered with the ACT Foundation in supporting such important life, leadership and technical skills.”

Dominique is humble when asked about both her peer teaching and the emergency assistance she has been able to provide for others.

“I just really love it,” she said. “I find it interesting, it is fun, and I think it is a good experience to teach other people to do what I love.”

“Why not be a leader and take that extra step?” she said. “I take pride in what I do.”

The ACT High School CPR Program was made possible in Catholic Central High School, thanks to the generous support of ACT’s Alberta partners: the STARS Foundation, a founding partner for the program, and Alberta Education. ACT’s lead community partner in Lethbridge is the Kiwanis Club of Green Acres. Mannequins and curriculum resources were donated to the school and teachers are trained as CPR instructors for their students.

Also responsible are ACT’s core partners, companies in the research-based pharmaceutical industry: AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada, Pfizer Canada and sanofi-aventis. They provide ACT’s sustaining funding and are committed to the Foundation’s Alberta program and national goal of promoting health and empowering Canadians to save lives.

The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is an award-winning, national charitable organization dedicated to establishing CPR in high schools across Canada. ACT raises funds to donate mannequins, teacher training, manuals and other materials to schools and guides schools in program set-up and long-term sustainability. Teachers teach CPR to their students as a regular part of the curriculum. More than 900,000 youth have been trained in CPR through this lifesaving program to date.