11/21/2014 12:46 pm ET Updated Jan 21, 2015

Learn to Save Lives With CPR

By: María Simón

It's 10:30 at night and the room is packed with salsa-dancing enthusiasts, including myself. All of a sudden, I notice a bit of commotion in the corner of the dance floor. A man is laying on the floor unconscious and not breathing. One of the students calls 9-1-1 while another one, a chiropractor, approaches the victim, opens his shirt and begins chest compressions. She then yells out, "Does anyone else know CPR?" I ran to the victim's side and as soon as she pauses the chest compressions, I pinched his nose, tilted his head back and gave him two breaths. I kept wondering if I was doing it right, but I didn't have time to scrutinize my technique because the chest compressions had stopped and I realized it was my turn again. I can't remember how long this went on or how many breaths I delivered before paramedics arrived. All I remember is people tentatively congratulating me, tentatively, because no one knew if the victim would be okay. Then I heard a most shocking comment from one of the paramedics as they were getting ready to leave: "This is the first time we arrive at a scene, and people are actually doing what they're supposed to." And I mean this was a shocking comment because before then, I didn't realized the lack of knowledge that exists about the importance of bystander CPR, especially among multicultural communities.

Bystander CPR is a primary factor in increasing survival rates, yet according to the American Heart Association, Latinos and African-Americans are 30 percent less likely to have bystander CPR performed on them in an emergency. Adding to this disparity, people who live in lower-income, African-American neighborhoods are 50 percent less likely to have CPR performed. Kids may be the answer to helping eliminate these inequalities, especially if they can be exposed to this lifesaving skill at a young age. And because the AHA believes kids are one of the answers to saving more lives, they are helping prepare more students, their teachers and their families to save lives with the CPR in Schools initiative.

School is a great equalizer, which is why CPR in Schools is an integral part of the solution and we believe will help increase bystander CPR across all communities and save more lives. With much of our children's time spent in school, logic leads to reaching them in their classroom setting. With Hands-Only™ CPR training, the simplicity of this life-saving technique can easily translate into elementary schools nationwide. I truly believe that reaching out to the younger population in our communities regarding the importance of learning CPR is key. In addition to we must teach our younger generation the importance of living a healthy lifestyle by making better food choices and including exercise in our daily activities.

As for me, I proudly have been CPR-trained for approximately 12 years, renewing my course completion card every two years, and I am now a CPR/AED and First Aid instructor via the American Heart Association's Heartsaver program in an effort to inspire others to learn these lifesaving techniques in a fun, educational and entertaining environment.

You too can help save lives.

Visit the American Heart Association's Website and find a CPR course. You can also find CPR resources in Spanish here. Help support the AHA's efforts to bring CPR training to your local schools. After all, it can be your life they save some day.

Fitness trainer María Guerra is a volunteer national spokesperson for the American Heart Association's Go Red Por Tu Corazón movement.

Twitter: @mariasimontv