Matthew saves life of student


Emma Hall, Managing Editor

It’s not every day that a Cal High teacher steps up and becomes a hero.

But that’s exactly what happened on Oct. 26 when PE teacher Lenard Matthews was faced with a dire situation as he discovered that one of his female students had drowned. 

Once Matthews saw the student faced down in the pool, he instructed his students to get out of the water. Matthews quickly jumped into the pool and retrieved the student, checking her vitals as he got on the deck of the pool. 

“I wanted to get her to her parents,” said Matthews. “I wanted to get her home.” 

The class was told to leave the pool area as Matthews along with Alyssa Arno, a 2017 Cal High graduate and senior lifeguard, began to perform CPR on the girl. 

Kevin Boggs, a recreational coordinator who was on site during the incident, then set up an AED, a device that delivers electric shocks to a person in cardiac arrest in hopes of restoring one’s heartbeat to a normal rhythm. 

Boggs gave the device to Arno. Andrew Hubbard, another recreational coordinator, then called 911. 

Scott Gering, a maintenance specialist at the San Ramon Olympic pool also lead emergency services to the deck of the pool to retrieve the student. 

After the third round of CPR was performed, the student was resuscitated and breathing. She was then taken to a hospital by an ambulance.

“I was relieved but scared [after she was resuscitated],” said Matthews .“It was so close.”

An email was sent to the PE class from administration revealing that their classmate had a medical condition where she experienced seizures. 

When the girl was near drowning, she was experiencing an episode. Although it was confirmed that their fellow classmate was going to be fine, the experience stuck with the students. 

The next class day, Matthews thanked them for being responsive and following directions. He also let some students who did not feel comfortable swimming that day to not take their unit test. 

“My students were shook [when I met with them next class],” said Matthews. “Some students didn’t swim or even dress for class.”

Matthews said the class eventually calmed down and continued with their regularly scheduled curriculum when some days had passed. 

Freshman Kevan Vu, a student of Matthews’ during that period, said he and his classmates gained a lot of respect for Matthews.

“We respect and listen to him more now,” said Vu. “We take his words more at face value.”

Matthews, Arno, Boggs, Gering, and Hubbard were recognized on Nov. 28 by the San Ramon City Council for saving the girl.

“You guys are well-trained, you know what to do,” San Ramon councilman Harry Sachs told the award recipients. “It makes all the difference.”

Many people in the Cal and San Ramon community are thankful for Matthews, Arno, Boggs, Gering, and Hubbard after hearing about the incident through social media. 

The feeling of gratitude has been especially geared toward Matthews and his actions. 

“We are extremely proud and grateful that Mr. Matthews acted in such a professional and swift manner,” said assistant principal Catie Hawkins. “We are very lucky to have him. We are so happy and thankful to have him a part of the Cal High community.” 

Regardless of the amount of praise the five received from the board, the award recipients remained modest for the recognition. 

“This is what the job is about,” Arno told the council. “To keep everyone safe in the community and for everyone to be able to enjoy their lives.” 

Given the chance to speak at the meeting commenced, Matthews spent much of the time complimenting Arno on her calm demeanor during the occurrence. 

Overall, Matthews spoke humbly and acted as if what happened that day was just another part of his job. 

“This is why I teach,” Matthews said. 

Matthews is known by Cal students for having his classes participate in a condensed lifeguard-training unit during the second semester.

In this unit, students are taught how to perform CPR and a simplified version of how to retrieve and rescue people who are drowning. 

An incident so close to home for Matthews’ students really shows the importance of the lessons of this future unit, and many consider how important it will especially be. 

“We probably all will take the [CPR unit] more seriously [after this incident],” said Vu. “we all are paying very close attention.”