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Bonita Vista High Students See the Reality of Drunk Driving

Created: 20 November, 2009
Updated: 26 July, 2022
4 min read

“Every 15 Minutes” assembly held over two days

One of two crashed vehicles used in re-enacting drunk driving accident. Covered under the yellow tarp is “dead” Bonita Vista High student Carlos Valdivia. The school’s 11th and 12th graders look on from the front lawn of the school.
One of two crashed vehicles used in re-enacting drunk driving accident. Covered under the yellow tarp is “dead” Bonita Vista High student Carlos Valdivia. The school’s 11th and 12th graders look on from the front lawn of the school.

 An elaborate re-enactment that brought together three fire engines, two ambulances and even a Mercy Air helicopter demonstrated first-hand for students at Bonita Vista High School the real dangers of drinking and driving.

 The high school hosted the “Every 15 Minutes” program over two days to show 11th and 12th graders at the school what can happen when people get behind the wheel of a car after drinking. The significance of the program’s name is to signify that in the United States, every 15 minutes a person is killed or injured by a drunk driver.

 During the hour-long re-enactment Thursday, students gathered on the front lawn of the high school to see fire-fighters using the “jaws of life” to pull students from two crashed vehicles. With a student dres-sed as the Grim Reaper looking on, one student—who had crashed through the front window of the car and had a yellow tarp over him—was pronounced dead at the scene. The student driver was given a field sobriety test and breathalyzer test, as students looked on.

 The driver of the second car was taken to the medical helicopter and airlifted away. The passenger of the second car was taken by ambulance.

 Standing along the sidelines of the crash were 15 students dressed in black t-shirts and painted black faces. These were the students who represented the number of students who would have died in an alcohol-related incident by lunchtime.

 While students were sent back to class for the remainder of the day, the 15 students were taken to a mock trial where student driver, Federico Velarde, was “sentenced” to 12 years in prison. The students then spent the night at a hotel, participating in a retreat where they would write letters to their parents on things they should have said, but now would be left unsaid because they were “dead.”

 Thursday evening, the parents of the 15 students gathered at the Bonita Vista High cafeteria to write similar letters to their “dead” children.

 The activities after the re-enactment proved to be more powerful as they were shown to students during the hour-long follow-up assembly on Friday.

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 A half-hour video depicting the students “drinking” at a party, the innocent students talking in the car on the way to an appointment, the parents talking to the trauma surgeon who tells them their daughter is “dead” and the tearful sentencing hearing for Velarde captured the students’ attention.

 It wasn’t until “dead” student Victoria Bird and “grieving” father Frank Wooden read their essays, however, that the true loss hit students. A tearful Victoria talked about how she would miss her big brother and how much she admired him—how she would never graduate or get married. She talked about being her father’s little princess and looking up to her mother. Wooden talked about the empty bedroom and the dog that was looking for his son, Jordan. He talked about how he would never see him again and how he would always be his father.

 Students also heard from Scripps Mercy Hospital trau-ma surgeon, Dr. Michael Sise, who talked about the difficult conversations he has had with parents of victims killed in drunk driving accidents. Judge Charles Rogers, who “sentenced” Velarde, talked about a real-life case of a graduating San Diego State University student who partied to celebrate the end of her last class. She had been an excellent student, a community volunteer and full of promise. She killed the mother of a five-year-old child. Rogers held up the picture the five-year-old drew of her mother in heaven and read the note the girl had read at the sentencing hearing.

 The powerful video, essays and speeches led up to a pledge made by Velarde, and his friend who had gotten into the car with him that afternoon, Carlos Valdivia.

 In front of his peers Velarde pledged to never drink and drive. Valdivia pledged never to get into a car with somebody who had been driving.

 Then Velarde asked the gym full of students:

 “All of you who pledge to never drink and drive, please stand.”

 Everybody stood.

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