Every spring, Gresham High School in partnership with Oregon Impact runs a special program that warns of the dangers of drunk driving. The program is ran the week preceding prom, when the risk of drunk driving greatly increases for high school students. “Every 15 Minutes” is aiming to steer students away from making a potentially life threatening decision.The first phase of this program was a display of a mangled Toyota Tacoma encased by a see-through trailer parked out front of the school. The driver, LeAnn Brooks, failed to respond to a curve and lost control of her vehicle. Her Blood Alcohol Concentration was .195, more than two times the legal limit. Today, her old Tacoma is the only thing left, an ominous reminder to the students of what could happen after getting behind the wheel intoxicated.
“The program really opens opens my eyes to the harsh realities of making bad decisions,” said senior Noah Potts. “I feel as though most kids will not take it seriously but it will still impact them.” Potts said.
The second phase came on Wednesday when students representing all social groups from the school arrive at Gresham High in black cloaks and painted white faces. These students represented the victims of drunk driving. Every 15 minutes, a new student was taken by the “grim reaper” that walked around school. Once a senior was chosen, the could no longer communicate with anybody, so it is like they were really dead. “I think it is very important to use students from all social backgrounds for this experiment,” said head of security Mike Melton. “If we were to use all athletes for example some people may not care. However, if we also incorporate the drama department students, club leaders, and just the ordinary student we can greaten the impact of our experiment school wide.” Melton said.
The third phase came on thursday, when an assembly for all seniors was held by the Gresham Police and Fire Department. The assembly included speakers Kristi and Todd Gradwahl, whose daughter, Avey, participated in the simulation. Kristi and Todd were given their daughter’s personal belongings and a fake death notice from traffic cops and a chaplain that she was the victim of a drunk driving accident. Students wrote a letter to their parents, thanking them for the years and lessons given to them. The exercise was aimed to be so life-like that Gresham P.D. traffic unit motorcycles were driven into the auditorium with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
“For some unfortunate parents, this is not an exercise.” said Kristi Gradwahl, Avey’s mother. “Their baby boy or girl will never walk through the front door again and that is unbearable.” Gradwahl said.
The assembly concluded with a poem written by Puka Ahina and an important message from the school resource officer Hickey. “Before getting behind the wheel intoxicated you have to ask yourself: Is this worth the consequences?”