LE GRAND -- Jennifer Buitron said her family and friends didn't have any confidence in her and thought she was weak-willed. About a month ago, she proved them all wrong.
Remembering what she had learned in her ROP medical occupations class, Buitron revived a 4-month-old infant who was not breathing and tried to come to the aid of a man whose truck got hit by a train more than a week ago.
Buitron, 18, received the heroism award and a $100 gift card from the Vera Salcido Foundation as she graduated from Le Grand High School last Friday. She wants to become a pediatrician.
"People don't have any faith in me," Buitron said. "They think I'm a weak person, but I proved them wrong. I wanted to tell everybody but I didn't want people to think I was showing off."
On a recent Saturday morning Buitron's father brought little Isabel Pantoja, a neighbor, to her in his arms. Isabel's color was purple, and her eyes were wide open. Buitron remembered the cardiopulmonary resuscitation training she had learned in Jerry Fragasso's ROP class and put her skills to work immediately.
She first checked the baby's throat for obstructions and found none. For what seemed like a half-hour, Buitron put the infant on her back, hit her 10 to 15 times with the palm of her hand, flipped her over and repeated the procedure two to three times.
When the baby, the child of next-door neighbors, started foaming at the mouth and crying, Buitron knew "she was back." The infant was hospitalized briefly for treatment of seizures. She saw the infant the next and said she was fine.
"I wish I could do it again, again and again," Buitron said. "My whole family is proud of me now. I love my family and do all I'm doing so they will be proud of me. I knew what to do and did what I had to do."
Buitron admits she cries a lot and is afraid of spiders. She intends on enrolling in nurse's training at San Joaquin Valley College in Fresno in early July and wants to become a pediatrician "no matter how long it takes."
She ultimately wants to work at Children's Hospital Central California in Ma-dera where her younger brother has been treated for kidney problems. She credits her 7-year-old brother with the inspiration to become a doctor.
Donna Alley, superintendent of Le Grand Union High School District, said Buitron has been a hard-working student at Le Grand High for four years and school has never come easily for her.
"Jennifer's quite shy, quiet and not outspoken," Alley said. "School has been a struggle for her. She has worked hard and has done something heroic; she saved the life of a child. Four years ago, I would never have imagined the path she has taken. "
Alley said what Buitron has done in the past month is amazing.
"Jennifer never really stood out," Alley said. "Jennifer has found her niche in the world."
The daughter of Ruben and Laura Buitron, Jennifer spent her senior year in Fragasso's ROP medical occupations class conducted at Merced's Golden Valley High School. A native of North Carolina, she moved to Planada when she was 3 years old, attended Planada Elementary School and attended Le Grand High for four years.
Buitron attends Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Planada and volunteers with other teenagers to sing and raise funds for the church. She likes doing day care work, whether she is paid or not, and loves being with little kids.
Buitron helped in another crisis situation. She and her mother were returning from Merced on May 30 when they saw a train hit a truck at Highway 140 near Plainsburg Road. Buitron called an ambulance on her cell phone and checked for the man's pulse; there was none. She waited for the ambulance before leaving.
Fragasso said Buitron interned for five to six hours a week at Mercy Medical Center Merced and became a model student.
"I wish I had more students like her," Fragasso said. "She came out of her shell and was just fantastic. She can do it. When she first entered the program she didn't think she could do it but she had the determination and just got better and better."
Lucinda Martinez, ROP career technician at Le Grand High, said Buitron is compassionate and always willing to help her classmates. The ROP medical class was very rigorous and difficult. Buitron was nervous about it but stayed calm and persevered.
Rick Martinez, a resource specialist teacher at Le Grand High, said he first encouraged Buitron to consider social work but then realized the medical field was the place for her.
"Jennifer is a fine young lady and she flourished," Martinez said.
Fellow resource teacher Stacie Buchner said Buitron was quiet, polite and always helpful.
"She has a good sense of humor and can be silly," Buchner said. "She doesn't like to take credit for things or walk around and brag or get recognition. She just has a big heart and always has been that way."
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.