Lucas Harward, staff writer
The Every 15 Minutes program will return to Beverly on Feb. 26 and 27 to deliver an intense staged experience to juniors and seniors about the dangers of drunk driving.
Every 15 Minutes, which comes to Beverly every two years, was first developed by the Chico Police Department in 1995 through a grant from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
“It originally started with the Highway Patrol, and they actually run a lot of the programs at the schools. However, you can decide as a school whether you want to run it or if you want them to run it. We decided that we wanted to run it, but it really is a community event. Les Bronte, the former mayor, is the lead on the entire program. You have BHPD, you have the Fire Department and you have the schools, so everyone is working together to make this work,” House C Assistant Principal Michelle Halimi-Dar said.
The program is called Every 15 Minutes because, in the early 1990s when the program was introduced, there was an alcohol-related traffic death every quarter hour in the United States. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), there were 10,076 alcohol-related traffic deaths in 2013, equating to one death every 52 minutes.
Every 15 Minutes was brought to Beverly in 2006 by then-principal Joseph Guidetti and has been a staple ever since.
Some upperclassmen remember the assembly from two years ago due to the emotions they felt after watching the video.
“I felt pretty sad after the assembly. I actually felt like those kids who I knew died in the crash. It felt real to me,” senior Mike O’neill said.
Others responded more to the lessons the program was meant to teach than to the strong emotions that went along with the lessons.
“I wasn’t deeply affected by the video, but it still instilled the consequences of drinking and driving into me,” senior Sydney Navid said.
The funding for Every 15 Minutes is sourced completely out-of-district, which has allowed it to consistently be a part of Beverly’s programs. Major sponsors for the program include the Vahagn Setian Foundation, Beverly Hills Rotary, the City of Beverly Hills Police and Fire Department, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Maple Counseling Center, and the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Although the program is only two days long, the process of planning the event is much lengthier.
“We had monthly meetings and now we’ve had one every week as we get closer to the date. There’s a liaison with the fire department, a liaison with the police department and a liaison with Cedars-Sinai. Les Bronte runs the program, so he sends out an e-mail, says come to the library on this date, and we all meet and talk about the logistics,” Halimi-Dar said.
Due to the high emotional toll that the events in this program may take on some students, the Maple Center counselors will be available both days for both group and individual support.
Another long process associated with Every 15 Minutes is choosing the students who will be involved in the car crash scene.
“We go to the counselors and they usually give us an idea of the right students to choose. We try to have a full range of kids from all walks of life, so we’re not just looking for the most popular kid. We’re looking that every student in the eleventh and twelfth grade class is touched by this because they know someone that’s in front of them,” Halimi-Dar said. “It’s a long journey for the students chosen, because along the way we have a lot of conversations with them and then, after the crash scene, they are sequestered, so you don’t see them for 24 hours. And during that time we do a lot of educational programming with those kids.”
On the second day of the program there will be a memorial service to honor the students who “passed away” in the car crash the day before, along with guest speakers from the community.
“Karen Setian always speaks because his son died in a drunk driving accident. We usually have a police officer that speaks from the police end and what it’s like for them. Then we have parent and student speakers for the kids who were involved in the actual scene. And then we show a video of what the story is and how these kids got into this accident, which kind of puts it all together for the student body,” Halimi-Dar said.
UPDATE: Watch the video shown to Beverly upperclassmen here.
Photo courtesy of: Daniel Oines (Flickr)