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A third grade hero

HONORARY CHAIR Eight-year-old Jacob Puglisi gets to bang the gavel while sitting in School Committee Chair Thomas Whittredge’s chair -- with a little encouragement from Whittredge-2
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School Committee honors 8-year-old student for his quick response to help a classmate who was choking on a nacho at lunch

  Jacob Puglisi can boast to his buddies that he sat in the chairman’s chair during a Saugus School Committee meeting last week and banged the gavel as the honorary chair. That’s a heady moment that no other student currently enrolled in Saugus Public Schools has experienced.

  But School Committee Chair Thomas Whittredge decided that giving up his seat and gavel for a few minutes to the third grader from the Belmonte STEAM Academy was the right way to honor an eight-year-old student who is credited with saving the life of a classmate in the school cafeteria several weeks ago. After learning about how Jacob rushed to the aid of a student who was choking on a nacho during a lunch break and then began performing the Heimlich maneuver on him, Whittredge decided prior to the Nov. 2 town election that he would invite Jacob to a future meeting so the committee could thank him for his heroics. Whittredge got reelected to a second two-year term and again topped the field of School Committee candidates, earning the right to be chair to more years and follow up with his pledge to invite Jacob to a School Committee meeting and publicly honor the boy.

  “You are a hero,” Whittredge told Jacob at the Nov. 18 meeting.

  “You’re a hero to me. … I’m just really impressed by what you did. A lot of people wouldn’t have done the same thing you did. You didn’t even think twice,” he said

  After praising the boy, Whittredge asked him to read a motion “to have Mr. Hatch removed from the committee.”That was really a joke – and a cue for School Committee Member John Hatch to offer some words of praise before a special presentation to Jacob.

  “We’re all super excited that you are here,” Hatch said.

  “This committee is so proud of what you’ve done. It’s amazing what you did,” he said.

  Hatch presented Jacob with a challenge coin, as a special token to recognize the boy’s heroic deed. “The second that you decided to do what you did that day, you joined a wonderful and incredible family of first responders – and they’re such amazing people – police, fire and EMTs. And I’ve been working with them for 30 years,” Hatch said.

  “And the service that you did is incredible, and you really should know that we sometimes award each other with challenge coins. From one first responder to another, we thank you for what you did, brother,” he said, handing Jacob the challenge coin.

  Then Hatch presented Jacob with a plaque with the inscription “In recognition for your life-saving efforts on a classmate in the cafeteria at the Saugus Belmonte Upper Elementary School STEAM Academy.”

  Hatch explained that the School Committee was influenced to award Jacob with the plaque to express its gratitude “for your actions, quick thinking and wonderful teaching by your parents.” They taught him to be prepared to respond in an emergency, and specifically how to do the Heimlich maneuver. “We’re truly gratified for what you did and we’re so thankful that you are here,” Hatch told Jacob.

  After the presentation, Jacob exchanged fist pumps with School Committee members. Whittredge implored Jacob to bang the chair’s gavel one more time.

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