The Every 15 Minutes program demonstrates real-life consequences of drunk driving to CCHS students during a two-day event that altered campus reality.
Written by: Sara Vechinski ’20 for the El Cid
Students follow police cars onto campus, questioning the reason for the security vehicles’ presence. Rumors fly about the upcoming assembly and special schedule, but no one is aware of what might happen next. As uncertainty and confusion settles upon Cathedral Catholic High School, the Every 15 Minutes program made its big reveal.
CCHS partnered Monday and Tuesday with the California Highway Patrol to host the Every 15 Minute program, which highlights the dangers of drinking and driving, particularly to high school juniors and seniors, who often find themselves faced with the decision of driving while intoxicated.
After keeping details of the special schedule hidden from students and teachers alike, CCHS and the California Highway Patrol began the jarring program Monday morning by entering classrooms, declaring students had “died,” hosting a small memorial service for them, and then removing the student from the classroom. Teachers began to reveal details and introduced the program that took campus by storm for two days — Every 15 Minutes.
“I didn’t want to scare anyone,” CCHS student participant in the program Jake Mitten ‘19 said, “but I felt it was important for the students to witness the effects of drunk driving rather than just hearing about them.”
The Every 15 Minutes program, which partners with the California Highway Patrol, local law enforcement, local hospitals, emergency medical responders, schools, businesses, and service clubs, showcases the importance of working together to ensure a healthy community, challenges upperclassmen to think about drinking, driving, personal safety, and promotes responsibility of making mature decisions and the impact of such decisions on family, friends, and the community, according to California Highway Patrol.
The “deceased” students, wearing ghoulish makeup, walked the quad at break holding their grave marker, a white cross with their name and birth and ‘death’ date written on it. Then, during Red 2, seniors assembled at the front gate and the rest of the school watched a live stream in their classrooms of a dramatization of an accident involving a drunk driver and passenger, played by CCHS students Miles McCormick ‘19 and Mitten, respectively.
“I wanted to help the CCHS community see what can happen if they get behind the wheel while drunk,” Mitten said. “Every action has a reaction. Anything can happen, and drunk driving won’t just affect you, it will affect everyone.”
Since the initiation of the program in 1995, when alcohol-related car crashes caused a fatality every 15 minutes, alcohol-related deaths have decreased to occurring every 50 minutes. However, alcohol has been involved in 23 percent of fatal car crashes among 16 to 20 year olds, according to drugabuse.com.
The Every 15 Minute program takes a unique approach when presenting the dangers of drunk driving.
“It’s different than having a speaker talk about it,” lead organizer of the CCHS demonstration Mrs. Ashley Bascom said. “Students actually get to see what it would be like if people they knew, like their friends, were affected. Since it is very theatrical in nature, it hits on an emotional level that impacts students in a different way.”
In addition to the emotional acting of the students on the scene of the “crash,” testimonies of parents, students, Fire Captain Matt Doyle, physician Dr. Tom Kozak, Judge Brad Weinreb from the Vista Court House, and most notably, coach Will Cunningham, who greatly affected the student body assembled in the gym on Tuesday.
The letter read by Andrew Kuypers ‘19 was a part of a retreat the 17 “deceased” students were on while they were absent from school. After their announced “death,” the students were taken to a hotel, where their phones and iPads were confiscated in order to make them truly “dead” to the world, and then they got the opportunity to listen Miss Taylor Cunningham, a victim of a drunk driving car crash, and share their own stories of how they were affected.
In addition to attending the courtroom scene, which the students saw in the video, the “deceased” were asked to write a letter to their parents, telling them everything they wanted to say before they died, and the parents were asked to write the same to their children. Kuypers was chosen to read his aloud to the assembly, but for the rest of the students and parents it was an emotional and personal exchange.
The Every 15 Minute program sparked conversation in classrooms and fostered a thoughtful and somber environment on campus, which the program hopes will impact the students when they are faced with the decision of driving while intoxicated.
“I hope it makes students think twice,” Mrs. Bascom said. “I hope it raises awareness, sparks conversation, and helps students realize there is always a way to make a positive choice.”
Involved or Mentioned:
Miles McCormick, ’19: Played Drunk Driver
Jake Mitten, ’19: Played Drunk friend in passenger seat
Lauren Monroe, ’19: Played deceased girl in collided car
Caleb Price, ’19: Plays hit pedestrian, “Paralyzed”
Watch the Every 15 Minute dramatization from March 25 & 26, 2019.