The UA School for Emergency Management’s (UASEM) Hands to Heart CPR Team partnered with a local Starbucks to make sure customers and community members were prepared to protect the hearts of fellow New Yorkers this Valentine’s Day. Hands to Heart is a student-led emergency service team on a mission to decrease the number of cardiac arrest-related deaths in low-income communities by teaching hands-only CPR. On the morning of February 14, over 100 Starbucks customers completed hands-only CPR training led by UASEM students, and were rewarded with free coffee and pastries.

Izbela Kubas, as UASEM 10th grader who joined Hands to Heart this year, was truly moved by seeing the variety of individuals who were committed to being trained and saving the lives of others. “We had people of all ages, all races - even an entire family visiting from Ireland, who shared that they wish things like this happened where they live.”

According to Nawin Bravo, a UASEM junior, many of the customers most interested in training were those who serve as caregivers. Nawin says, “People would tell me that they supervise their grandchildren over the summer, and that they wanted to be prepared to respond to issues that might arise at the local pool, or that they have aging relatives they want to be able to assist in case of emergency. It was really inspiring.”

For the UASEM staff leading Hands to Heart, the inspiration came in seeing their student-leaders in action. Sundoes Elbery, a co-founder of Hands to Heart, shared how impressed she was “seeing the students take the lead and communicate passionately and informatively with the public. Our team got the chance to put the job skills we practice in the classroom to use in the real world, and they truly shined.”

The Pearl Street Starbucks team felt the same way, and is looking forward to having their entire staff trained by the students, as well as setting up a full series of customer training in the future.

UASEM, founded in 2013 by the Urban Assembly with principals Robert Magliaro and Taina Torres, prepares students for postsecondary education and careers in emergency medicine and cyber security. Students who select the Emergency Medicine pathway are trained in emergency medical care in partnership with the Borough of Manhattan Community College and graduate UASEM as certified Emergency Medical Technicians.

The Hands to Heart CPR Team is a team of Emergency Medicine students who want to address health inequities in the community. According to a national study of patients who suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, emergency service response times are 10% slower in low-income communities. Hands to Heart works throughout the five boroughs of New York to teach hands-only CPR in neighborhoods with the slowest response times.

Hands to Heart was founded by teachers Salvatore Puglisi and Sundoes Elbery, with generous funding from the Shippy Foundation and support from Urban Assembly.