Knowing your limits

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Michelle Banayan and Mabel Kabani, news editor and opinion editor

From Nov. 30 print edition

Tuesday morning, a hoard of juniors and seniors were led down the steps of the school to the front lawn in order to witness the reenactment of the aftermath of a car crash caused by driving while under the influence of alcohol. Black tarp sheilds covered the scene as students sat huddled next to each other on bleachers, waiting for the scene to unfold. A shot rang out and the tarp was unveiled, revealing a car crash with the bodies of blood-covered students sprawled across the ground and in the cars. This was the first lesson administered by the “Every 15 Minutes” program.

“Every 15 Minutes” originated in Canada and was introduced to the U.S. in 1995. According to its official website, every15minutes.com, the program “offers real-life experience without the real-life risks” and is a “powerful program that [will] challenge students to think about drinking, texting while driving, personal safety and the responsibility of making mature decisions when lives are involved.”

Beverly first implemented the program in 2006 after “feeling the need to introduce students to the real life consequences that come in hand with making bad choices,” Assistant Principal Amy Golden said. That same year, before the program was put into action, Beverly student Vahagn Setian was killed in a car crash caused by actor Lane Garrison, who was under the influence of alcohol and other illegal substances. The importance of “Every 15 Minutes” was specifically emphasized after the incident, though it was not set up specifically because of the accident.

“The point of ‘Every 15 Minutes’ is to reiterate to students the importance of understanding that accidents due to drunk driving or texting are not foreign tragedies, but are relevant to each and every student at this school,” Golden said. “Vahagn’s tragic incident only emphasized the importance of making good choices and eliminating distractions such as phones and alcohol when driving.”

Though measuring the success of a program such as this is difficult, “every single life impacted, changed or saved is worth all the work that was put into this event.” Golden said.

Many of the students who felt that the event was a success this year realized the consequences that could come from making poor decisions.

“I think it was an amazing program and it definitely did impact me and a lot of my friends,” senior Rebecca Hakhamian said. “I cried and the speeches really hit my heart and made me think a lot about my actions and actions I’ve seen others do while driving.”

Though the event was primarily for and by students, adults also felt greatly impacted by the crash and memorial that took place Tuesday.

History teacher Daniel Moroaica felt greatly affected by the program as both a high school teacher and parent.

“My little girls are still 13 years away from driving, at least, but these are concerns that I’m going to have for them now,” he said. “It’s good to know that there are programs already that are out to look after them.”

“Every 15 Minutes” is a nation-wide program that occurs in high schools and is practiced every two years so that juniors and seniors get to experience the program at least once. Freshmen and sophomores, in the meantime, participate in designated activities related to making bad choices.

“While juniors and seniors were at the lawn witnessing the crash, the underclassmen were at an assembly in which they watched the ‘Every 15 Minutes’ video from 2010,” Golden said. “They also listened to Jason Newman speak, as well as a student who was involved in the 2010 incident, and listened to a song.” She continued to say that when upperclassmen were at the assembly in the afternoon, the freshmen and sophomores were in designated “focus groups” under the supervision of a teacher that either performed activities with them or simply talked to students regarding the importance of making right choices.

“I think the school should keep this program because when we realized that life is so fragile, we’ll start to cherish what we have and not make stupid decisions,” sophomore Baibing Qin said. “I enjoyed the activities and am excited to experience the real program later in high school.”

Though this program was meant to benefit all students in some way, Golden said that the students who participated in the “skit” were the ones most heavily impacted.

Senior Lili Eshaghzadeh played an important role in yesterday’s scene as the “girl who took the safe ride home.” Though she, as well as everybody else involved in Tuesday’s enactment, started rehearsals in September, the car crash still came across as very real and scary to her.

“The scene at the car crash when I was crying was not acting at all. It was just my reaction,” she said. “The [administration] did not tell us what to do; they said that once you see the crash and the ambulance and everything, it would begin to feel very real. I never rehearsed crying, but I started bawling after I saw everything.”

According to Golden, the student selection process for the program was simple and was based solely on counselor recommendations this year. Counselors looked for people who would be willing and committed to making the event a success, as well as people from different social groups in order to achieve maximum impact on the students.

This year, the program was funded completely by the “Every 15 Minutes” organization and was still considered by most to be a success. However, there were complaints regarding the technicalities of the program.

“Half of the people couldn’t see anything during the accident because of the tree that was blocking everyone’s view,” junior Chaliz Taghdis said. “I saw videos from the ‘Every 15 Minutes’ event that took place in 2008 and it was much better at that time. I also didn’t like how the dead people were sitting on the stage during the assembly.”

Though the views on Tuesday’s events were generally mixed, “impacting even one person makes a difference.”

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