For Cedar Grove High School junior Kyle Mosley, seeing his girlfriend playing dead during a simulation of a car accident involving a drunk driver was enough for him to understand the severe consequences of driving under the influence.
However, an overnight stay at Grady Memorial Hospital brought home the message for him. Kyle was among nearly 20 11th- and 12th-grade students from Cedar Grove High School to participate in the Shattered Dreams program on February 23-24. Cedar Grove is the first school in Georgia to do the program.
Shattered Dreams is a two-day, school-based program that promotes responsible decision-making among high school students regarding underage drinking and impaired driving by showing them how irresponsible choices can end all dreams. In collaboration with Grady Memorial Hospital; the DeKalb County Police; the DeKalb County Fire & Rescue Department; A1 tow service; Gregory B. Levett & Sons Funeral Home; the school’s Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) department; and student actors and their parents, the program students a real-life scenario of what happens at a drunk driver scene.
“I think it was really important for our students to see real-life experiences,” said Cedar Grove Principal Clifton Spears. “We talk about giving them real-world applications in teaching, and this is a real-life application for them to see it from start to finish.”
Day one of the program began with a simulation of a drunk driving accident in the school’s parking lot. The simulation featured student actors, with makeup portraying bodily injuries, exiting two damaged cars involved in a car accident. One student was lying lifeless on the ground, and another was presumed dead in the passage seat of one of the vehicles. DeKalb County Fire & Rescue and police patrol cars drove to the school parking lot with sirens on while a student actor in a grim reaper costume looms over the scene.
Parents of the student actors also played a role in the simulation, crying out as they looked upon their “deceased” children.
“It was eye-opening. Seeing someone that I love lifeless was indescribable,” said Kyle. “This could happen to anybody. Seeing her mom brake down like that… that’s something I never want to go through. Especially with her being my girlfriend, I couldn’t bare it.”
Kyle and the rest of the participants then spent the night at Grady Memorial Hospital. After going through Q&A sessions with surgeons, nurses, rescue personnel, and other hospital staff, the student toured the hospital and witnessed real-life trauma cases in the trauma center. Junior Kristn Robinson said they saw an intoxicated person, who was unresponsive, receive treatment.
“It really shook me because they didn’t have to drug him while they treated him,” she said. “It was eye-opening to see how bad it could really be for you because they did a lot to him, and he didn’t need any pain medication because he was highly intoxicated.”
Lawrence Blair, Injury Prevention and Outreach Manager at Grady Hospital, said the overnight stay at the hospital is what separates the Shattered Dreams program from other similar programs.
“We put a heavy emphasis on education. The students tour various departments throughout the hospital,” Blair said. “They get to have Q&A sessions with trauma surgeons, nurses, the fire department, the police department, physical therapy, radiology; you name it. It’s an intensive 24-hour program that they go through, but education is the emphasis.”
The students also toured the burn unit in the hospital, which was another shock to Kristn’s system.
“I never thought about burns and things of that nature after a car accident,” she said. “The impact of seeing charred skin is something I’ll never forget. It changes a life forever because burns really don’t ever go away.”
After the sessions and hospital tour, the students were asked to write goodbye letters to their parents—words they would want to say to their loved ones before tragically dying in a drunk-driving accident. This assignment was not an easy task for the students.
“It was hard because this is my mom, and we’ve been through a lot together. She’s always preaching about making the right decisions the first time because you may not get another time to make the right decision, Kristn said. “Putting myself in a situation where I was in an accident because of a drunk driver, I was taking in what she would say to me and applying it to my letter.”
“I’m a product of a single mom, a grandma, and a granddad. Being with them all of my life…I don’t want to see them hurt like that,” Kyle said as tears rolled down his cheeks. “They care so much about me, and they’ve done so much for me. They’ve supported me through every journey. They want the best for me.”
Principal Spears has buried four students in his four years at Cedar Grove, including a recent graduate who died in a motor vehicle accident last summer. He hopes the message from Shattered Dreams is a wake-up call for his students to make intelligent decisions when they’re behind the wheel.
“As an adult, I don’t worry about my driving. I’m worried about the other people on the road,” Principal Spears said. “It’s important that our kids see this message and understand what can happen to them if they put their lives and the lives of others in danger.”