Real tears, real fears and a real wake-up call. For local students at Glen Rose High School, last week’s Shattered Dreams program provided all of those for one reason - to hopefully convince students that drinking and driving is a bad decision.
The mock vehicle accident, involving GRHS student actors and a number of local emergency medical responders and law enforcement officers, was intended to teach students a valuable lesson last Wednesday.
Susan Bruce, GRHS’ family and consumer sciences teacher and local organizer of the high-impact program, says this year’s Shattered Dreams re-enactment had been in the making for almost year. Several student organizations also sponsored the program, including Students Against Destructive Decisions, the National Honor Society and FCCLA.
This was the school’s third year to hold the program, said Bruce, who feels there is a need to firmly educate teens about the affects of drinking and driving.
During last week’s dramatization, eight students donned makeup and fake blood for the scenario of a car accident caused by a drunk driver. In this case, GRHS student Megan Pruitt played the part of an intoxicated driver and was subjected to the realities following a DWI and intoxication manslaughter charge.
Although onlookers knew the accident was staged, the realness of the situation hit hard. There was a horrific real-looking accident, a 9-1-1 call and the commotion at the scene, complete with a wrecker.
The mock accident included a response from Somervell County sheriff’s deputies, Department of Public Safety troopers, agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and first responders from the Somervell County Fire Department, as well as morticians and a hearse from Wylie Funeral Home who came to retrieve the deceased.
LifeStar was originally part of the staged accident, but weather hampered the landing of the medevac helicopter, requiring an ambulance to transport the “victims” to the emergency room at Glen Rose Medical Center where the rest of the dramatization played out.
The impact is real and needs to be, said Bruce. “If it keeps one student from making a bad choice to drink and drive, then it’s worth it.”
During the school day, the Grim Reaper entered classrooms at GRHS and took two victims every 15 minutes to represent the national statistics that a life is lost every 23 minutes in an alcohol-related accident. Accompanying the hooded actor was a DPS trooper who then read aloud the student’s obituary before posting it for their classmates to see in the school’s foyer.
All together, a total of 45 students “died” and crosses were erected in front of the school along with the crashed car for the student body to see.
Those selected through an application process to “die” and participate in the Shattered Dreams program were not allowed to talk to anyone for the remainder of the school day, portraying the harsh truth of the consequences of drunk driving.
Shane Tipton, Somervell County school resource officer and advisor of the GRHS chapter of SADD, says Shattered Dreams is held to allow students to witness the tragedy instead of just “reading about it.”
“They see every aspect from the fire department cutting someone out of the wreckage, and those field tested for sobriety,” said Tipton. “It’s about as close as you can get to the real thing.”
Shattered Dreams not only is a lesson for students, but used as a training exercise for law enforcement and emergency responders, said Tipton. “They had no clue when they pulled up. Those guys didn’t know what to expect when they got to the scene. Everyone involved, they work it like a live (accident) scene and it worked out good.”
Tipton is confident that the program has convinced local students to not consume alcohol or get behind the wheel after drinking. “They’re all talking about it, and during the wreck, there were some students in tears. You can see it in their face and they imagine the impact of losing a close friend.”
Costing approximately $10,000 to produce, Bruce says Shattered Dreams is made possible thanks to the support of local sponsors. Makeup and professionals hired to make the actors look like they were involved in an accident, cost $900 alone.
In weeks leading up to the event, a camera crew filmed the students to be involved in the dramatization, said Tipton. “The kids didn’t know but we filmed them during their normal activities. We also showed them in the wreck. It’s intended to show good nice kids before, during and after.”
At the end of the school day, those involved in the program were taken to Glen Lake Camp for a retreat where the reality was driven home even further.
“They don’t go home, have no cell phones … nothing,” said Tipton. “Speakers come and talk to the kids and they write a letter to their parents expressing their feelings as if they had one last chance to say goodbye. We talk to those kids about what they went through and what to expect the next day. It’s just like if they were to die - no one will see them again.”
On Thursday, the school held an assembly to serve as a mock funeral service and show the film of the accident, which included the behind-the-scenes activities such as the booking process at the jail and the ER staff working frantically at the hospital to revive the accident victims.
Those students who wrote a last goodbye to their parents read the letters before the crowd, causing a wave of emotions and leaving few with dry eyes.
Bruce also welcomed Johnny Robison, a teacher at Arlington ISD whose son was killed seven years ago. “His son was the drunk driver, but he and his girlfriend were killed.”
The message hit home and students were able to feel the pain that is caused when a life is lost all from one bad decision to get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol.
“We originally started Shattered Dreams when four of our students were hit by a drunk driver 12 years ago,” said Bruce. “Jamie Baker was killed in the accident and the drunk driver who was killed was a former student, who left behind a wife and two kids. That got us motivated to start the program.”
Candace (Baker) Thompson spoke at this year’s retreat - the first time publicly since the wreck, said Bruce. “She brought pictures and pieces of the wreckage that were taken out of her after the wreck.”
During the debriefing on Thursday, Bruce said one student commented, “I didn’t realize anybody would care if I died.”
“Another student agreed with him, and if they got that out of this program, that’s important,” said Bruce.
Shattered Dreams is timed to make an impact prior to the school prom and graduation - two events students are likely to celebrate with alcohol, said Bruce.
Several students involved in Shattered Dreams who wrote letters to their parents were awarded scholarships following the program.
Bruce said $4,000 donated by this year’s sponsors were set aside to provide six scholarships, which were distributed after a committee reviewed the entries.
Receiving $500 scholarships were Kira Mathis, Ashton Edwards and Shannon Uehline; $750 scholarships went to Jana Horn and Tanner Yocham; and Lindsey Cook received a $1,000 scholarship.