On April 17 and 18, Every 15 Minutes, a program that challenges students to consider the real-life consequences of drinking and driving, came to Mountain View High School. A group of students, parents, and teachers have been volunteering their time to organize the program, which was kept secret from students, since as early as April of 2012.
Sophomore Kelly Vroom heard about the program through ASB last year and approached William Blair about bringing it to the entire school. She and sophomore Sofia Biros became the student coordinators, along with Blair and Jared Darby as co-coordinators. Tami Kittle and Barbara Kaufman were also instrumental in organizing the program.
California Highway Patrol will reimburse the school $9,999 in grant money for the cost of hosting Every Fifteen Minutes, and the rest of the cost was covered by fundraising and private sponsors.
The two day event started on Wednesday with students being pulled out of their second period classes by the Grim Reaper, symbolizing the fact that every fifteen minutes a person dies in an alcohol related car crash in the United States. These students became members of the “Living Dead.”
In a special two hour assembly on the football field on Wednesday, students involved in the program simulated a traffic collision due to drunk driving in coordination with the Mountain View Police Department, the Mountain View Fire Department, and Paramedics. Two fire trucks, two ambulances, Police motorcycles, and a squad car arrived at the scene as if responding to real 9-1-1 calls.
The student body watched as two victims were pulled from a car using the jaws of life and were subsequently driven away in ambulances to West Valley Medical Center. Drew Taylor, the student drunk driver was then arrested for a DUI and taken away in a squad car. Nicole Korpontinos, the student who was killed in the scene, was briefly examined by the county coroner and then placed in a body bag and driven to the morgue.
In order to make the experience realistic, these students went through the process as if it were real. Taylor was investigated by the police, arrested, and booked into jail on Wednesday. The victims taken to the hospital went through medical examinations until their hearts stopped beating and they eventually expired. Parents of the living dead and those “killed” at the scene received mock death notifications.
The event culminated Thursday in an emotionally charged funeral procession including friends and family reading letters they had written to their dead loved ones and a speech given by a mother who lost her child to drunk driving.
Darby helped organize the event by calling and acting as a liaison to local agencies like Mountain View Fire and Mountain View Police, as well as to Virginia Jones, the coordinator for Every Fifteen Minutes for Santa Clara County.
“From there, we got a parent committee and started having monthly meetings. We had parents who took over things like fundraising, scheduling, decorations, and food,” Darby said.
The Grim Reaper team was led by Vroom and Biros. Students selected to be members of the living dead came from many different niches on campus to ensure that the program would have a widespread effect.
“They really made an impact on the people that they hang out with,” Vroom said.
Vroom had a very personal connection to the cause, as she lost a friend to drunk driving when she was only nine years old.
“She was only eight years old, so this is for her,” Vroom said.
Darby has also lost friends in car accidents, which made the experience even more powerful for him.
Those involved all hope that the event had a lasting impact on students.
“I don’t think people realize it, but the worst things happen when least expected…you can lose someone in an instant,” said Vroom.
Darby hopes that students were able to make an emotional connection with the event in some way or that it acted as a learning experience.
Blair wanted participants to think about the importance and impact of their decisions.
“I want students to think about how [the decisions we make] could have really negative consequences…and the impact of our decisions not only on ourselves [but on] all the people who could possibly be affected. I don’t think kids realize how much they matter and how much their decisions matter to our world,” Blair said.