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Wisconsin Fourth-Grader Hailed a Hero for Saving Choking Student with Technique She Learned On YouTube: ‘Did What I Had to Do’

A 9-year-old Wisconsin girl was honored by her school district this week after springing into action to save a classmate’s life.

Essence “Essie” Collier saw another student in her fourth-grade class choking on a Cheeto as they were eating lunch, so she stepped in and grabbed the other girl by the stomach and performed a Heimlich maneuver.

It’s a rescue technique that Essie did not know how to pronounce, but she saw it on YouTube. Essie said she could tell that the other student could not breathe.

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Essence “Essie” Collier will be honored for saving another student from choking. (Photo: YouTube screen grab/WISN)

“I just saw that she was holding her neck, and I rushed up there as fast as I can,” Essie told WISN. 

Samantha Bradshaw was filling in in a classroom at Fratt Elementary School in Racine, Wisconsin, while the students ate there temporarily while voting was underway in the cafeteria on Election Day. Bradshaw said she didn’t know what was happening at first when Essie “darted” across the room and “kind of said ‘stop!’”

Bradshaw said she was surprised that a fourth grader would react that way.

“I’ve never seen a student react like that before,” she said.

Essie told reporters she was 7 years old when she saw the instructional video on “how to help somebody when they’re choking” on YouTube, but it stuck with her.

“I just really did what I had to do to like, save her life because I really didn’t want her to die,” Essie told TMJ4.

Essie does not want to admit that she is a hero. She’s just a “student” she says who always tries to do her best.

“You should be to be a leader. Not a follower,” she told the Racine County Eye. 

The girl was awarded 21 Falcon feathers from her school, which she can use to redeem prizes from the school store. However, Essie said she will save some of the feathers to share the prizes with her siblings.

The Racine Unified School District also plans to honor the life-saving fourth-grader on Nov. 21. The other student’s identity has not been disclosed and their condition is unclear.

Essie said she hopes the story would motivate under children to learn the Heimlich maneuver.

“I really want kids to learn this,” she said.

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