Students learn about first response


A group of eighth graders from St. Ritas Catholic Church in Alexandria got to see what it was like to be on an emergency response team when they participated with children from around the world in the National Go-First program in early September.

For five days, the students lived on the edge as they swam through rapids, rope climbed, participated in emergency medical exercises, and went on patrol with the Coast Guard to see what it was like to face danger the way many people do in these occupations.

One of the underlying messages was that life is all about hard work. Mackenzie Cate liked the water rescue activities the best. I learned several lessons like how to act like a team, trusting people, how to be a leader and what first responders go through every day, she said, responding by email.

Madeline Manaker, 13, also participated in the swift water rescue, going from rock to rock in the rapids of the Shenandoah River. We learned how to swim in the currents, she said. These exercises brought the students outside the comfort zone, said her mother, Melissa Manaker, an eighth-grade teacher at St. Ritas who accompanied the children. They had an incredible respect for what the first responders do, she added. They also traveled to Great Falls and Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

In addition, they worked with deaf students from Gallaudet University to experience a first response situation with deaf people. The students were taught sign language and teamwork, and what its like for people with disabilities, said Madeline Manaker.

The course was designed and financed by Global Online First Responder Student Training Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., and is developed and directed by a global team of public safety and education leaders dedicated to preparing young people with skills and values of first responder organizations around the world.