As we enter the high school prom/graduation season, there is much excitement and many celebrations planned to mark these occasions. What better time to bring home the dangers of drunk driving to our high school students? This is exactly what happened on March 8 and 9 at Liberty High School, which partnered with the Brentwood Police Department and many of our community and county services with the amazing Every 15 Minutes program.
If you haven’t heard about this powerful program, many agencies work with Liberty High School to stage a crash scene caused by a student drunk driver. Three crash scene students die, either at the scene or later at the hospital or in the ambulance. An additional 22 students “die” throughout the day (representing every 15 minutes someone dies from a drunk driver). Many agencies go to great lengths to make this as real as possible, including our Brentwood police and fire departments, and John Muir Hospital personnel, including the Life Flight crew.
The following day, a “funeral” takes place for these students at the school, where the entire junior and senior class attend.
Now, I was a skeptic about the power of this. I wondered: doesn’t everyone know that this is fake? However, something amazing happens; logic goes out the window and it feels incredibly real to those involved. And the hundreds of students who attended the “funeral “ were as quiet and still as I have ever seen them, with the exception of quiet crying.
I believe that our students will think twice before getting behind the wheel if they have been drinking as a result of this powerful program. Although the list of people to thank is long, I would like to begin by personally thanking Officer Chris Pert (Brentwood Police Department), who was the lead on this; and Justin Luo (traffic safety officer); Jessica Perry (community service officer); Mary Jean Holden (Brentwood PD); Matt LaFleur (Liberty assistant principal); and Kellie Callahan (Liberty Class of 2012 advisor) for their dedication to the success of this program.
I also think that we live in an amazing community that continues to support this program, including the following organizations that generously donated their time and money:
Brentwood Police Department, California Highway Patrol, East Contra Costa Fire Department, American Medical Response, John Muir Health Foundation, Arrowhead 24 Hour Towing and Recovery, Brentwood Café, the City of Brentwood, Calstar, OTS, New Mecca Café, American Legion Riders, Safeway, Brentwood Funeral Home, Ribbons & Roses, Brentwood PD chaplains, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office chaplains, Brentwood PAL, Brentwood Police Officers Association, Nicole La Freniere, Noreen Romo, Wendy Reynolds, and the Liberty High School administration.
I hope that we continue to offer this program to our community’s high school students, and that the community continues to support these agencies and businesses. Thank you to all involved.
Laurel Sarmento, Grateful Liberty HS parent