New Prairie High School named the 1st Heart Safe School in Indiana


Story and photos provided by NPHS

On May 24, 2021, New Prairie High School was awarded the 1st Heart Safe School designation in Indiana. This project, led by teacher and HOSA-Future Health Professionals Tonya Aerts, is the first designation by Project Adam affiliate Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

Dr. Adam Kean and program associate Jeff Utzinger, both from Indianapolis, were on hand for the final step of the application process: a mock cardiac emergency drill between NPHS classes. Also attending were representatives of local first responders (La Porte Fire Department, La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office, La Porte County EMS), State Sen. Mike Bohacek, State Rep. Jim Pressel, Zoll Public Safety representatives, Miss South Bend, and family members of Mark Mayfield (New Prairie High School), Jake West (La Porte High School ), and Zac Mago (John Glenn High School) attended and were supportive of the event. Mark, Jake and Zac all passed away of sudden cardiac arrest.

Project Adam is a national program established in 1999 by parents of a child who died of sudden cardiac arrest at a basketball game. The program involves creating affiliate hospitals throughout the country who work with schools and community programs to establish heart-safe environments.

To be recognized as a Heart Safe School, New Prairie High School met specific requirements that included (but were not limited to) developing a cardiac emergency response plan; establishing highly visible, functioning AEDs (Automatic External Defibrillators) that can be obtained within 2-3 minutes from any point on campus; conducting cardiac emergency response drills with both students and staff; and adding more safety requirements that create a rescue-ready environment inside the school and throughout the campus.

Aerts said that although this designation is a major accomplishment for NPHS, it is only the beginning. “We know how to respond to a fire, tornado, and active shooter, but we do not talk about what to do in the event of a cardiac emergency,” she said. “Sudden cardiac arrest is the No. 1 cause of death of student athletes on a school campus and can happen to anyone at any time. It is a simple fact that an AED, along with immediate and effective CPR, can save a life. I am determined to create a rescue-ready environment throughout New Prairie schools and help other schools/groups achieve the same preparedness.”

Aerts said the deaths of Mark, Jake and Zac motivates her to do more for the community. “Jake, Mark and Zac are three names that I think about all the time, and their names and faces keep me focused.”

To learn more about the process of making a school Heart Safe, follow New Prairie HOSA on Facebook or on Instagram at npusc-hosa. Or contact Tonya Aerts directly at

One Response to “New Prairie High School named the 1st Heart Safe School in Indiana”

  1. Anna

    Jun 11. 2021

    Congratulations on your accomplishment. This sounds like a great program and one that should be carried out in every school because of the number of people that are in the school daily. Good Job!

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