COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A new program is giving Columbus young people the tools to save lives amid the community’s surging violence.

Throughout the summer, the city will be training several hundred teenagers in emergency medical aid to create a coalition of “Citizen First Responders.”

Tuesday morning, several dozen young men, women and parents gathered at an East side boxing gym to learn how to perform CPR, administer Narcan and apply tourniquets.

“Really everything we’re teaching is something they could use on the street,” explained Lt. Isaac Toliver, of the Columbus Division of Fire.

He was overseeing the Division’s Rapid Response Emergency Addiction and Crisis Team (RREACT) as they demonstrated the skills. The program’s motto repeated to participants is “Save a Life, Don’t Take a Life.”

“All of this is around us every day,” added LaSharrah Jones. “And if you want to help a life, save a life, you have to know what it is you need to do to do that.”

The mother of 7 has found herself keeping her teenagers home and trying to protect them from the looming dangers of the gangs, drugs and violence.

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “I always tell my kids, ‘You all do not understand how important it is to stay a child because this world is crazy.’”

Community leaders have been trying to address the surge in youth-related violence as Columbus grapples with a record pace of homicides and shootings in 2021.

Monday night, City Council approved funding to support the Citizen First Responders program.

“We have violence in our community and across this country. It’s important that people know how to address the problem,” explained Council Member Mitchell Brown, the chair of the Public Safety Committee.

Brown, a former paramedic himself, added the program could also give the participants positive role models in the EMS workers teaching them.

Jones said it’s going to take comprehensive solutions to tackle the city’s violence problems, but she was encouraged seeing dozens of young people eager to learn the life-saving skills.

“It’s okay to not pick up a gun and shoot. It’s okay to not do drugs. If we get the right people to see these things in this world, we may make a change,” she said.

RREACT offers similar training at many community events and during pop-up Narcan distributions. You can read more about what the team does by clicking here.