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Teen recognized for saving classmate's life

Teen recognized for saving a life
Teen recognized for saving a life 02:50

MIAMI - A 15-year-old Miami Dade County Public School student with a lot of empathy was exactly the person a student needed in a crisis.  And what he did, can teach many something about preventing a teen suicide.

"At school Brandon is part of the AP Capstone program, bionomics, club," Ariadna Espinosa, Do the Right Thing Exec. Dir.

Brandon Sabalza's academics have earned him recognition before, but this time, it's for something different, something he's had no formal training in, a mental health crisis.

"He's not just a model student, he's a hero," Espinosa said as she presented him with an award.

Sabalza received the recognition Thursday through the Do the Right Thing Program, a non-profit that partners with the Miami Police Department to recognize officers and young people for exemplary service.  His service actually saved the life of a classmate.  

"Basically, it all happened after school. I was hanging out with my friends. And then I got a buzz on my phone, and I checked it and I saw that my friend said that she was going to jump from the third floor of our school. So I mainly panicked. I went rushing upstairs, the third floor where she was there, she was laying on the on the edge of it," Sabalza recalled.

He managed to move her gently away.

"And from there we were just talking and talking. I was trying to like to negotiate and talk for like her not to do it. Tell her that it's people who care for and I honestly cared," he said.

He said, his parents always taught him to be kind.

"I've always thought about helping people because honestly I have a lot of empathy for people," he told CBS4.

And that empathy is what Miami-Dade Public Schools is working on to pass on to students.

"Teen mental health first aid teaches students in high schools how to understand that maybe their friend is going through some kind of a challenge" Sally Alayon, Asst. Superintendent Office of Mental Health and Student Services said.

Since 2018 the district has ramped up mental health services, adding to date, 133 mental health professionals across the district, but there are also things everyone can be mindful of.  One, be aware of changes in behavior, such as lack of appetite, withdrawnness, or slipping grades.  Another is, making a referral to get hep, this may be to a teacher or trusted adult; it's important to know it doesn't mean anyone is in trouble.  And last, follow-up, make sure the friend or family member is receiving help.

"The number of high-level cases, we're not seeing more high-level cases, we're just knowing that because we've hired so many individuals in our school district that we are having more referrals," Alayon said.

She couldn't share how many people have been referred specifically for suicide help, but she says mental health struggles are affecting students in Miami-Dade.  

"Nationally you could say 1 in 5 children will experience some type of a mental health challenge," she added.

At the end of the day, empathy, and a friend like Sabalza can ultimately make a huge difference. 

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