Two mentor teachers at the Yavapai College Del E. Webb Family Enrichment Center can add “hero” to their resumes after acting quickly and in tandem to rescue a toddler experiencing a life-threatening emergency.

YC Police officials and college leadership, including YC President Dr. Lisa Rhine, honored Karely Rodriguez and Melissa Markgraf for their “uncommon heroism,” presenting them with the YC Campus Safety Lifesaving Medal during a ceremony Dec. 12.

Melissa Markgraf“The medal is typically awarded to police officers who perform a life-saving act under extraordinary circumstances,” YCPD Sgt. Jake Jackson told the gathering. The circumstances at the FEC that day were extraordinary – such that any delay in providing assistance would have resulted in a different outcome. “You filled in in a moment when it was critical and you acted heroically in that moment,” Jackson said.

Karely and Melissa, who work side by side in one of two toddler classrooms at the FEC, credited regular child-focused first aid and CPR training, instinct and a strong partnership for their successful life-saving efforts.

“That training becomes innate. A lot of times in situations like that you’re not really even thinking, you just react,” Melissa said.

“That was the first time we’ve had to work so close as a team and pick up on each other’s cues. We knew what we were doing,” added Karely.

Karley RodriguezAcknowledging that the life-threatening emergency was unsettling for them, their students and co-workers, Karely and Melissa said it was also confidence-building.

“I think it was in that moment when we realized that we can really rely on one another,” Melissa said.

To mitigate any uncertainty about first responders among their young charges, FEC staff are planning regular, friendly interactions like a recent impromptu visit by YCPD Chief Tyran Payne. “We want to have our police officers be a part of the center more so the children will recognize them and know they don’t only see them in emergencies,” Melissa said.

Meanwhile, Karely said she and Melissa have seen remarkable resiliency and growth in the child whose life they saved. “(He/she) learned to say our names for the first time. That’s music to your heart.”