RENO — On a recent Friday right before lunch, Westergard Elementary fifth grade teacher Monica Ehlen was solving a math problem for her students. When she turned back to face the classroom, it was clear one of her students was in distress.
“I turned around to see my student standing up, kneeling over and he’s absolutely choking. He’s panicking, pointing to his neck he can’t breathe,” Ehlen said. “He’s trying to gag and it won’t come out. Naturally, I panic.”
Ehlen said a fruit snack had lodged in her student’s throat. She administered the Heimlich maneuver, but it didn’t take the first time.
“In just a matter of seconds it feels like five minutes had gone by and I checked him again,” she said. “He’s still gagging and nothing is coming up. The fruit snack, which was about the size of a gum drop, had completely blocked his airway. As I began the Heimlich maneuver again, I thought to myself, ‘This time I’m going to have to try a little harder,’ so I tried it again and it just popped out. It felt like I was moving in slow motion in a movie.”
Ehlen said the other students knew their classmate was choking, which made it even more stressful. The principal of Westergard, William Chronister, said Ehlen’s heroic actions and calm demeanor guided her through the incident.
“She was a little shaken but stepped up when it came time to act,” he said. “It was fantastic that she maintained her composure and helped this student who clearly was in an emergency situation.”
Ehlen said she is not a hero, just a teacher who did what any human being would do.
“It was just a natural reaction,” she said. “Of course I am going to save my student.”
It wasn’t until after school, however, that what occurred that day really hit her. She returned from her crossing duty to see flowers and a card sitting on her desk. The card read, “Thank you for saving my life.”
“As soon as I read that card, I just started crying,” she said. “It was the best card I’ve ever received from a student.”
SSHS student raises funds for leadership excursion
SPARKS — Spanish Springs High School sophomore Jonathan Medina Sotelo has been selected to represent northern Nevada at the 2011 National Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., this summer and is raising funds for the trip.
Sotelo must raise $3,380 in sponsorships for the tuition and between $200 and $500 for travel costs. He is asking for help from the community.
“Imagine if you had been given this opportunity for a life-changing experience when you were unable to participate for lack of funds,” Sotelo wrote in a letter to potential sponsors. “With the economy still on the mend, not all families have money set aside for things such as this, and this is why I am writing you today.”
Attending the conference will allow Sotelo to learn about politics firsthand.
“(It will) enable me to attend their exemplary educational program, furthering my education and reach my goals of bringing about revival in our communities, giving the proletariat, the common man, a place in politics again,” Sotelo said.
Anyone interested in sponsoring Sotelo can call him at 313-8853.
Eight WCSD National Merit finalists named
RENO — Eight Washoe County high school students are in the running to become National Merit Scholar Program winners this spring, competing for a chance to earn one of more than 8,000 scholarships worth more than $36 million combined.
This year’s finalists are Danielle Geerling and Mary Stachofsky from Galena High; Illeah Kirchoff from TMCC High; Lisa Bryant and Alexandra Vallas from Reno High; Steven M. Stozza and Michelle M. Duggan from Spanish Springs High; and Brin Smith from Wooster High.
“We are extremely proud of each one of these students,” Superintendent Heath Morrison said. “The journey to become a National Merit Scholar starts long before graduation and requires years of commitment. Being named a National Merit finalist is a true testament to their dedication in the classroom and in the community. I am looking forward to shaking each one of their hands when they walk across the graduation stage in May.”
Students who participate in the National Merit Scholarship Program take the PSAT no later than their junior years, must be enrolled as a high school student, plan to enroll full-time in college during the fall after they complete high school and be a U.S. citizen. The program eventually selects the semifinalists and contacts them in early September. Finalists are named and notified in February. Winners are chosen based on their abilities and accomplishments.
These eight students were pared down to the final round from approximately 15,000 students. Merit scholar winners will be selected based on their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in challenging college courses.
“It’s wonderful to have Washoe County School District represented by such amazing students,” said WCSD board President Barbara McLaury. “We always seek to challenge our students, help them thrive and inspire them to achieve their best. I wish these students the best of luck for the final round.”