Los Lunas — After certifying hundreds of Los Lunas Elementary students as “lifesavers,” the Los Lunas Fire Department recognized LLE physical education teacher Daniel Martinez for his dedication of teaching students CPR and other lifesaving measures.

“It gives them the skills if anything ever happens,” Martinez said about the program. “They should be able to jump in and know what they are doing to take over and help adults who, maybe they don’t know. So, I hope it’s going to be a big impact if they remember.”

The department and Fire Chief John Gabaldon surprised Martinez with the recognition after officially certifying about 200 students who had gone through the Lifesaver Program in the month of February.

“It’s probably one of the most impactful things that happens with the community, because early access to CPR, first aid and 911 is key to our health and survivability rate,” Gabaldon said. “These kids having those tools, I can’t describe (the importance). These kids are ready; they know how to use the system.”

Through the program, students earn their CPR certification learning basic compression, how to hook up a defibrillator (AED), how to call 911 and choking prevention.

Martinez estimates in the half-decade he’s been heading the program, more than 600 fourth- through sixth-grade students became certified lifesavers.

During the month of February, elementary schools across the United States celebrate Heart Month with Jump Rope for Heart, a nationwide fundraiser aiming to create awareness, get students moving and raise money for cardiovascular research.

Martinez said he wanted to mark the month by teaching his students something different.

“Heart Month, everybody usually does jump rope, or something like that. I wanted to do something different that would benefit, and that’s a cool skill to have,” Martinez said. “That’s a life skill. Hopefully, they don’t have to use it, but if they do, then they’ll be ready.”

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.