Education Celebrations: Shattered Dreams, teachable moment
The news May 1 from Victoria West High School was grim. Two students were dead, and the lives of many others were changed forever after a head-on accident between a pickup and car.
Thankfully, the accident was not real. The students were not really dead. But the message of Shattered Dreams was real.
Every 15 minutes, the Grim Reaper, visited a classroom, and as a police officer read the obituary of a student, the student left the class to become one of the walking dead for the next day and a half.
The time frame was meaningful. Every 15 minutes in this nation, someone dies in a car crash as the result of a drunken or distracted driver.
To add to the authenticity of the accident scene, members of the Victoria Fire Department and PHI, an air medical service, responded to free the trapped students and treat their injuries. Department of Public Safety troopers administered the field sobriety test and marked the accident scene for documentation of what would become a criminal investigation. The scene was meticulously crafted to create a sense of realism for the students who watched the event unfold.
To call it intense is an understatement. Two parents on scene knew it was a mock accident, but their tears were real nevertheless.
And the next day as students filed into the gym for a "memorial service" for the lives lost the day before, the mood was truly somber. There was no chatter as two caskets were brought in with students as pallbearers.
Chris Guerra of the Victoria Police Department told the students how throughout the course of his life, his dreams had changed from being a rock star to being a parent. He spoke not as a member of the law enforcement community but as a parent, "You are our dreams." Once shattered, dreams can never be put back together.
Hearing parents read a eulogy and letters written by the students just after "dying" added to the emotion of the event. Hearing from inmates in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice who took the lives of young people in drunken driving accidents added to the intensity. It was a sharp contrast to hear a successful young man with a great education and a high-tech engineering job but see that same young man in white prison garb with handcuffs and armed guards.
The partnerships that were developed to make the Shattered Dreams a reality were vital. The event was the "baby" of Fire Investigator Frank Naranjo and West Assistant Principal Yolanda Ritchey. Coby's Wrecker Service provided the wrecked vehicles. The Victoria Fire Department and Police Department were joined by the Department of Public Safety and PHI.
The emergency department at Citizens Medical Center joined in the efforts along with Rosewood Funeral Chapel. The city of Victoria provided video services.
The list of campus staff involved in the program is very long. Parents volunteered. The students took their parts seriously.
The YMCA sponsored the overnight stay of the "dead." Forgive me if I left anyone off the list. Every person played a major part in making the two-day event meaningful.
This was a time when "the village" truly came together with a priceless message. There was a warning wrapped in love. Dreams can be shattered. Lives can be irreparably harmed. Your care and concern is worthy of celebration by everyone in VISD and our community.
Diane Boyett is the communications director for Victoria school district. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.