SAN JUAN - Amanda Garza-Peña Elementary in the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School District was recently designated a Heart Safe School by the Project Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory (ADAM) program. With this national designation, Garza-Peña Elementary has become the 324th school in Texas and the 2nd in PSJA ISD to be recognized as a Project ADAM Heart Safe School. Clover Elementary in San Juan also earned this designation in 2014.


Project ADAM is a national non-profit program intended to help schools in all communities build CPR-AED or Public Access Defibrillator programs. The designation is attained by schools upon successful implementation of a quality sudden cardiac arrest program of awareness, training and effective emergency response to promote a Heart Safe environment for students, visitors and staff as outlined within the Heart Safe School Checklist.


The designation recognizes the work that has been spearheaded by Garza-Peña School Nurse Elena Sustaita.


“There’s no such thing as a smooth emergency,” Sustaita said. “If we practice it, practicing will make you a little more comfortable with your role in responding and that could make the difference in saving somebody’s life.”


Project ADAM began in 1999 when Adam Lemel, a Wisconsin high school student, suddenly collapsed and died while playing basketball at school. Following the tragedy, Adam’s parents worked with Children's Hospital of Wisconsin to devise a program that would provide schools throughout the nation with resources that could potentially save lives should a child experience cardiac arrest during school or after-school activities.


Because cardiac death can happen within minutes, it is important for staff members to have a general awareness of what sudden cardiac arrest looks like, warning signs, the importance of rapid response, basic AED informational and what to do when someone collapses in an emergency situation.


According to Sulema Solis, PSJA Director of Student Health Services, PSJA ISD is constantly looking for better ways to ensure safety, and supply health and emergency protocols throughout all of its facilities.