Even as a child, Sydney Brewer realized that the threat of a tragedy taking place in a school could become a reality for anyone. Now just a few days shy of turning 17, she’s the same age as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting survivors. She recalls seeing the news about the horrific event that claimed 26 lives in Newtown, Connecticut, when she was in first grade.
Now a junior at John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, Brewer, of Merrick, wants to make sure that students, teachers and administrators are prepared for a worst-case scenario situation. Her fundraiser to purchase Stop the Bleed kits will do just that.
At Kennedy, Brewer is enrolled in the leadership program. Students who are part of the program begin taking leadership classes as sophomores, and they are followed by two more classes in their junior and senior years. Through several projects and initiatives, they are encouraged to emerge as young leaders in the Bellmore-Merrick community.
Brewer is enrolled in the second installment of the program, and had to plan and execute a civics project — something that would give her a voice in school or community issues.
“I was thinking, ‘What can I do?’” she recalled. “I wanted to help people here so I could actually see the change, and (make) that impact myself.”
Brewer came across a Stop the Bleed website, and learned about training in which people learn how to stop bleeding in an emergency. “There’s these kits that have essential things in them — like a tourniquet, gauze, trauma sheers — that if, God forbid, there’s ever any type of emergency, someone can be saved,” she said.
The school had some items on hand, but Brewer wanted to make sure that every class could be fully stocked with essential, potentially life-saving materials. After discussing her idea with Kennedy administrators and the school nurse, Brewer determined that 60 additional kits would need to be purchased.
“Over the past several years, our school has made it a top priority to train staff and students in various emergency procedures,” Principal Gerard Owenburg said, “including CPR (and) AED, first aid, and Stop the Bleed training.”
She connected with the company iThrive, which supplies the kits. At a price of $50 per kit, Brewer needed to raise $3,000. Working with Kennedy’s student government, in which she’s also involved, she started a raffle, offering people a chance to win a new Apple Watch. From the raffle alone she raised $1,500.
Sydney’s mother, Jessica, added that Kennedy’s PTA recently had a pretzel sale, and would be donating all of the proceeds to her cause. North Star Auto Body, in Bellmore, also donated $300. The rest of the money, the Brewers hope, will be collected at comedy-night fundraiser at the Brokerage in Bellmore. Tickets for the show, on Feb. 9, at 8 p.m., are on sale for $20, and must be purchased ahead of time. Attendees must be 16 or older. For more info, visit Govs.com or call (516) 781-5233.
There’s more to Sydney’s mission than simply raising funds, though. “I’m actually going to get doctors from Northwell Health to come into Kennedy,” she said, “and teach students how to use the kits, and how to act in an emergency situation.”
Jessica Brewer stressed that her daughter became aware of school tragedies at a young age because of Sandy Hook. “I think that was when she learned about school shootings, and it kind of got real,” Jessica noted. “So many people have supported (Sydney’s efforts), because the reality of it is, this is such an amazing cause.”
In her civics project proposal, which Brewer shared with the Herald, she wrote, “While mass shootings are unpredictable there are measures that we can take to help wounded students and staff, and be as educated as possible.”
Since she’s still raising money, there is no set date or time for her Stop the Bleed training, but she hopes to have more information soon. If the arrangement with Northwell Health is successful, Brewer would like the training class to become a yearly event, offered to all incoming Kennedy students.
“As a student in our school and community leadership program, Sydney has put her leadership skills and compassion for others to work with a plan to place Stop the Bleed kits in every classroom of our building,” Owenburg said. “Sydney’s project has the ability to not only save lives, but is also a wonderful example of altruism for other students.”