On November 30 and December 1, Coronado High School (CHS) upperclassmen participated in the deeply-impactful “Every 15 Minutes” program. This is a two-day assembly that demonstrates the dangers of driving under the influence (DUI). This biennial program is funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety and the California Highway Patrol (CHP).
This isn’t the first time CHS has put on this event. Previous juniors and seniors experienced the simulation in 2018, 2020, and in the fall of 2021.
Associated Student Body (ASB) Advisor Nicole Belong says, “This is the fourth time that I’ve facilitated this program. I plan out all of the things from the required city permits to the grant application, as well as coordinating all the agencies that are involved. It’s a lot of coordination, but incredibly powerful and emotional. It’s something kids will remember so I hope it sticks with them and pushes them to make good decisions for their entire lives. I’ve had lots of kids reach out, even the ones in college, telling me how impactful the program was.”
Belong works logistics with the CHS Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) and coordinates with Commissioner of Finance Maria Guerra and Commissioner of Outreach Santi Carrera. The Commissioners task teams helped order shirts, generated permission slips, create fictional obituaries, and remembrance slideshows for the actors.
Belong continues, “Every time we do this program, I sit down with my juniors and seniors and I ask “Do we need this?” and every year the ASB leadership in each graduating class is very adamant about saying their grades need this.”
CHS and CHP worked with many local organizations to make this event possible. Some include: Coronado Police Department, Coronado Fire Department, Sharp Hospital, San Diego Superior Court, and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office.
All of these efforts combined to create a moving event that challenged all licensed-students to consider the impact their decisions have when driving.
The program started on Thursday, Nov. 30 with students lined up along 7th street while observing the two staged vehicles and the student actors inside them. Junior Scottlyn Potter “called” the Coronado Police Department, who promptly swung into action. Students got to see first-hand the amount of work the paramedics, police, and coroner put into accidents. Senior Kenzie Uyesugi acted as the drunk driver. After “failing” sobriety tests, she was driven to the police station and the medics wheeled the victims’ bodies into the ambulance.
Fifteen students were dressed in black and holding white roses while the crash scene played out. They stood on the opposite side from the rest of the students to represent DUI victims that statistically could’ve been impacted during the time of the program. Curing the two-day event, these students had to “play dead” by not being able to use their cell phones, spending the night at Camp Surf away from their families, and wearing zombie-like makeup during the program.
Junior Katie Collins participated in the simulation as the sober driver’s passenger in the fatal crash. Collins says, “My biggest takeaway from the experience was seeing how many people DUI crashes and DUls in general affect. It is so much bigger than one person. The entire community came together to help with this event and it shows truly how if something were to happen like this, how many people it affects.”
On Friday, Dec. 1, juniors and seniors gathered in the Black Box Theatre to attend the victim’s fictional funeral. Parents of the fallen were in attendance and Featheringill Mortuary assisted in creating a realistic atmosphere.
Students watched the video of the simulated crash and speeches were given which aroused emotional reactions in the crowd. Dr. Bianchi, emergency medicine physician at Sharp Coronado, discussed the devastating DUI accident traumas he sees in the hospital.
Larry McNamer vulnerably told his personal story of how a drunk driver altered his family’s life forever. Students heard another heartbreaking story from CHP Officer Mark Latulippe who presented a video showing how his family was tragically impacted by a catastrophic DUI accident.
The upperclassmen unanimously pledged to never drive under the the influence or get into a vehicle with someone who is.
“Honestly, I came into this hoping to understand and see more of the effects of DUI crashes, and believe me I did. It was pretty emotional and it really opens your eyes to how easy these disasters can be prevented. One of the speakers who lost his cousin in a DUI crash said that DUI is a crime of arrogance. I think that everyone should think of that before getting in a car with someone or being a driver under the influence. It’s not worth it. Seeing your friends, family, and everyone you know see you dead definitely makes you realize how prevalent this issue is,” Collins continued.
Sentiments were shared throughout the day about how emotional the stories made students feel. The presentation told a dire truth about the roads that students drive on. Always be safe, drive safe, and do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.