Education

New Providence High School Students Experience Mock Fatal Drunk Drinking Accident; Part 2 of 2

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27 NPHS student actors were involved in the "Every 15 Minutes" program. Students read letters written to their parents. Every 15 minutes someone dies as the result of  alcohol related collision. Credits: Bobbie Peer
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Part 2 of a two part series of "Every 15 Minutes"

"To what could have been -- Every 15 minutes someone dies as the result of  alcohol related collision."

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Day two of the "Every 15 Minutes Program," sponsored by the New Providence Municipal Alliance,  juniors and seniors watched the bi-annual film production of a mock fatal crash involving their friends and classmates and the devastating consequences of their actions while drinking and driving.

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Although this production did not actually happen, the real-time actions of the responders and professionalism of the production crew, as well as the effort by the student actors and family members made it eerily real. 

When we walk side by side with these students and family members, we, as students, parents and community members alike, can relate to this mock devastation. The message of this program is a simple one: this type of tragedy is avoidable by the choices we make. 

"Every two years, I have a lump in my throat," said David Chango, NPHS Student Assistance Counselor. "Every time, [I think] I'm not going to get choked up because it is fake and it's just a video. But when I watch it, [it] suggests the idea of what can be -- provided that people make bad decisions."

"This [program] gives a glimpse of what might be," he said. "This will put the idea that good decisions keep you in control of the outcome and when you make bad decisions you surrender control of the outcome."

The efforts by the student actors and their family members and each and every resource involved in this re-enactment resonated with the audience of juniors and seniors, as you could hear a pin drop through the silence. The reality of the production and moving song choices hit to the core, bringing many to tears. The efforts and coordination of Chango, the Municipal Alliance and the New Providence Police Department, Fire Department, EMS, Atlantic Health Systems and Morristown Memorial Hospital were applauded. 

"That was as authentic as it can be without being real -- having living it," said New Providence High School history teacher Joe Carollo. "I was over there crying because I was thrust back into what I lived 14 years ago." Carollo continued to tell the story of losing his brother in-law to a drunk driving accident. 

"My brother in-law died in a drunk driving accident at the age of 24," said Carollo. "It would be easier if I could tell you that he was an innocent person and got hit by a drunk driver, it would make him sympathetic. But the simple fact is he was the drunk driver." 

"I waited for the right time to tell the story and hope that something good comes out of the experiences my family has had," said Carollo. "If I can get just one of you, hopefully a heck of a lot more, to make a good decision to avoid what happened to my family -- [then] everything here and what my family has gone through was worth it." 

Carollo gave the students two "lasting lessons" -- "first one, one mistake -- you can be the best kids in the world -- you make one mistake -- when it comes to drugs and alcohol it can be permanent," he said.

Second, "you have to help your friends or people you know -- help them make good life choices. We all fall and we all make mistakes. But, we don't want our mistakes to be permanent. Make good life choices so that if they make a mistake, that mistake doesn't define them and become permanent." 

He left the students with his final words of advise, "If you find yourself in that moment -- simply make that good choice or [let] someone around you make that brave choice for you."

Click here for coverage of Day One: New Providence Students Experience Effects of Drunk Driving in 'Every 15 Minutes Program'.

NPHS Principal Lauren Zirpoli acknowledged the efforts of Student Assistance Counselor David Chango, who was responsible for bringing the program to the school.  The program is aligned with prom weekend so the students are inspired to be more thoughtful in what they are doing and make better decisions, she said. --  "As you begin your celebrations, please be responsible and think about the consequences your decisions can bring. Remember those that care about you, depend on you, and love you dearly." 

Chango explained the planning of the event starts in September and requires a great deal of effort by the students and their families, as well as the coordination of getting everything lined up. 

Students who were chosen to be actors in the "Every 15 Minutes" program prepared written letters to their parents as if they really died. This emotional exercise expressed their message of regret and how they wish they could turn back time and take back their bad decision.  They shared their sadness to their parents who won't be able to see them pursue their dreams, watch them grow up, and were stripped of the opportunity to walk them down the aisle. They shared their regret for creating a permanent void of emptiness in their families due to their bad decision.  

"To what could have been -- Every 15 minutes someone dies as the result of  alcohol related collision."

"I hope this inspires you to chase tomorrow. It is yours if you are willing to do what it takes to see it and live it," wrote a student. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make a decision to end my life. I wasted all the love. I didn't mean to hurt you."

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"Every 15 Minutes" is sponsored by the New Providence Municipal Alliance with the support of the New Providence School District, The New Providence EMS, Police, Fire and Atlantic Health Systems.

The New Providence Alliance is funded by a grant from the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Each year the New Providence Alliance provides meaningful programs to students and parents within our community to provide information and guidance on how to prevent alcohol and drug abuse. 

The Alliance thanks Prestige Diner for donating sandwiches and Murray Hill Inn for providing discounted rates for the execution of the program.

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