Wharton Shattered Dreams
is a two-day school-based program that promotes responsible decision making by high school juniors and seniors regarding drinking and driving by showing them how irresponsibility can end all dreams.
Shattered Dreams, developed by the Bexar County DWI Task Force Advisory Board on Underage Drinking in 1998, is an expanded and renamed version of the Every 15 Minutes program first conducted by the Police Department of Chico, California, on May 15-16, 1996. The original program name emphasizes the frequency with which people die in alcohol related crashes. The name Shattered Dreams emphasizes the result of such crashes: the shattered dreams of those who drink and drive, their innocent victims, and their families.
For several reasons, this alcohol-awareness education program can be more effective than the traditional programs conducted prior to such events as spring break, prom night, and graduation:
Shattered Dreams is more comprehensive than most programs. School districts often plan such single-event programs such as those featuring mock trials, mock funerals, and assemblies with speakers. Shattered Dreams, however, features all of these activities and more over a two-day period and has a follow-up activity several months after the event.
Shattered Dreams requires the active participation of students and parents, educators, and representatives from fourteen other segments of the community. The major activity is a dramatic reenactment in front of the school of injuries and death resulting from an auto crash caused by drivers who drink. This involves several students.
Another major activity is the reenactment of the death of those who die every fifteen minutes in auto crashes. Every fifteen minutes, an adult dressed as the Grim Reaper walks through school hallways to the sound of a heartbeat played over the school public address system. He then takes one pre-selected student volunteer out of a class. By the end of the day, he has taken out about twenty-seven students.
These student volunteers, known as the “Living Dead,” then proceed to a room to have their faces made up with theatrical makeup to make them look dead. Mock notifications of their deaths are then presented to their classmates and parents by uniformed police, who read mock obituaries. Then they simulate being dead by returning to classes with instructions not to communicate to anyone.
A mock auto crash occurs near the school. The Living Dead join other junior and senior students at the crash scene. The crash victims are then taken to hospital emergency rooms or area funeral homes. Later, after the day’s events, counselors are available in the auditorium for students who did not participate in the event to receive support.
Students will participate in a mock memorial service for DWI victims. The families of the participating students, the seriously injured DWI victims, and law enforcement personnel could be invited to attend and mingle with the students, arm in arm, to mourn the loss of real people. Memorial songs, whether taps, funeral marches, or some other form of musical expression of mourning, can help students understand death’s reality and gravity and the importance of finding meaning in life beyond being a consumer.
In addition, an overnight leadership retreat for the student volunteers representing those who died simulates for students and their families the experience of their being gone after a death. There, students share their feelings about reenacting the experience of being teens that die as a result of alcohol-related auto crashes. They also participate in group discussions on topics related to personal power and personal identity and design posters reflecting their discussion. They then share their ideas through poster talks with the larger group.
At the retreat, counselors and other mental health professionals help students process their experiences. Students write letters to their families on the theme of “my life has a purpose” to communicate feelings that they would not have been able to share as a result of a premature death. Two letters are selected to be read in a school-wide assembly the following day. Students may qualify for scholarships funded by donations from individuals and organizations within their community.
The assembly features presentations by medical and law enforcement personnel, as well as school staff, parents, and students.
As part of the assembly, an official can read a document signed in advance by the city’s mayor proclaiming the day as Shattered Dreams Program Day. See the appendix for suggested language for such a document.
As an optional activity, two to three weeks after the event, there can be a mock trial of the suspected DWI student driver involved in the mock crash.
Shattered Dreams, in addition, provides participants with extensive counseling assistance during and after the event. Students and their parents are then able to receive psychological support during this emotional experience and help in talking about the experience as they process it.
Finally, Shattered Dreams is unique in that it requires a serious long-term commitment by those who sponsor it. The event requires extensive planning by school and community personnel who serve on a planning committee and accomplish their goals through fifteen planning teams. Such teams initially meet monthly, bi-weekly, and then weekly.
Members of the Bexar County DWI Task Force who developed this program hope that the Shattered Dreams program will be conducted in more communities.
|City of Wharton EMS © 2006||
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