Even though it was ‘make believe,’ the graphic images that Firebaugh High students saw will hopefully leave a lasting impression on the evils of drinking and driving.

Firebaugh High hosted “Every 15 minutes”, the program that shows students just how bad drinking and driving can end. The program took place on Dec 4 and 5, on the street outside of the high school.

Firebaugh High principal Anthony Catalin said that planning for the event started in Sep and included several agencies: the Firebaugh Police Department and Fire Department, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, the California Highway Patrol, the Fresno County Coroner’s office, Fresno County judges, plus local students, parents and volunteers.

The event unfolds with a serious car wreck with one passenger dead at the scene and others seriously injured. As real police and emergency personnel arrive, the students get to witness not only a ‘deceased’ student, but also firefighters treating injured students, some in serious condition. Then the most telling moment, when the “driver” is handcuffed and arrested for felony DUI causing death and/or serious injury.

On the second day, students go to the school’s gymnasium where they see the results of the incident—a judge sentencing the perpetrator to prison, parents identifying their dead teenager at the morgue, and statements from other victims concerning their very serious injuries.

CHP officer Shannon Stiers said that the program is very powerful.

“It’s designed to create an awareness among students that they are not invincible. This program helps open the emotional doors, and it gives the students first-hand experience on how their actions affect the lives of so many other people. The two-day Every 15 Minutes program is very dramatic and emotional-and purposely so. Teenagers are constantly reminded about the choices they have to make involving alcohol and how many others are affected by their decisions.” Catalin, who coordinated the event along with Alex Gutierrez, the school’s ROP Criminal Justice instructor, added: “It is important to me that we teach students about the choices they make and educate them on the potential consequences of their actions. Teaching them is so important as one in three people will be affected by a drunk driving incident throughout their lives.”

He also said that students who participated in the event went on a retreat.

“There was a lot of education on drinking and driving. Their responses were overwhelmingly positive in the experience they received as well as the education,” said Catalin. “The general student population took it well and we capped it off with a great message from Tony Hoffman, our guest speaker.”

Photos by Alisa Kirck and Alicia Borboa

David Borboa