S.A.D.D. holds assembly to remind students to remain safe

Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Cassville junior Meagan Sloan shared the moving monologue, Daddy’s Girl, during an assembly, which used powerful events to admonish students to stay safe and sober before prom weekend, in which she portrayed an innocent young girl dying on the pavement from a drunk driver. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Grim Reaper visit gets student, staff attention at sobering event

Just before prom, Cassville S.A.D.D. (Students Against Destructive Decisions) students and school administrators recently shared a powerful message with students to remind them about the perils of drinking and driving to help them stay safe.

According to statistics provided by a student S.A.D.D. member Faith Brooks, every 15 minutes, someone dies from an alcohol-related injury. To bring home the fact, during the school day on March 29, the week leading up to prom, 22 students volunteered to be 'fatal' victims, and After being removed from their classroom, the students, who wore black and whose faces were painted a pale white, were "presumed dead" and not allowed to speak.

A Cassville High School student portraying the Grim Reaper points to and claims 22 student victims sitting amongst the student body one at a time, who represented the real-life individuals who died at the hands of a drunk driver, while math teacher and S.A.D.D. advisor Gayle Green reads the individuals’ names and circumstances of their death. Statistics show that someone dies every 15 minutes due to the actions of a drunk driver, and to make that fact real to students, a fellow student was removed from their classroom every 15 minutes throughout the day. The event was part of a Safe and Sober campaign to send students a strong message not to drink and drive, or get into the vehicle of anyone doing so. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

The somber day culminated in a presentation during seventh hour in the gymnasium to the entire student body, which began with a Safe and Sober video presentation of the personal testimony and remorse of a young female student who became permanently wheelchair-bound after shattering her vertebrae in a drinking and driving incident. The video also portrayed parents guiding, encouraging and loving their children from from toddlers to teenagers, and showed how destructive decisions can bring heart break to parents and families in general, when a student is permanently injured, or fatally killed, in drinking-and-driving accidents.

"Every day, we have choices," the student said. "Some are bigger than others, but getting caught is not the worst thing that can happen. I hurt all those around me."

The young woman said she could no longer drive, work or dance, and had to depend on others to get out of bed and for toileting.

Cassville High School Principal Jeff Swadley shared a heartfelt message with the entire student body, encouraging them not to drink and drive, or get into a vehicle with anyone engaging in those behaviors, on prom weekend, or any time, and to do the right thing, for themselves and by their families. Swadley’s message was the last in a somber presentation to the student body the Wednesday before prom weekend. The presentation included events played out by the Grim Reaper and 22 students representing real-life victims who died due to drunk drivers. In the photo, the students stand somberly behind Swadley as he addresses the student body, asking them to consider their choices and make the right ones to keep themselves safe. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Next, junior Meagan Sloan shared the moving monologue, "Daddy's Girl," in dim lighting, in which she portrayed an innocent young girl dying on the pavement from a drunk driver.

Freshman Nolan Crain read the "I Believe" DARE speech.

An "obituary" followed, in which the Grim Reaper claimed each of the 22 student victims sitting in the bleachers, while Cassville High School math teacher and S.A.D.D. Advisor Gayle Green read the names and circumstances of the real individuals who died in alcohol-related accidents, whom they represented. The entire student body was silent as they watched the tall, dark silhouette of the Grim Reaper claim his victims in the dim lighting, one-by-one.

Cassville High School students portrayed fatal, real-life victims of drunk drivers during an assembly before prom, and a funeral setting, to warn students about the dangers of drinking and driving, or getting in a vehicle with anyone drinking. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

Lastly, student Denny Wierman held up a Safe and Sober pledge card, asking each student to take a pledge to never drink and drive, not ride with anyone who has been drinking or using drugs, refrain from drinking alcohol throughout high school, not drink until they are at least 21 and not use drugs or misuse prescription pills.

Elaine Boles, S.A.D.D. advisor and Cassville High School nurse, said the group hosts an event just before prom each year not to scare students, but to keep them safe.

At the conclusion of the event, Principal Jeff Swadley shared a personal message with students.

"We lived through this last year, and I don't want to live through that again," he said, referring to the trauma that reverberated throughout the school and community after the tragic loss of two students last year in a car wreck. "Each night, I pray for everyone in this school, that they will do what's right by them, and right by their families. Make the right choices. Life is all about choices until the day we leave this earth. I'm proud of those who participated in this event."

Swadley also invited students to talk to him or staff about any issues that might be troubling them, then dismissed the assembly.

Senior Kya Olmstead, who portrayed one of the 22 victims, lost a friend years ago from a drunk driver, so the event was especially meaningful to her.

"I lost my best friend to a drunk driver in kindergarten, and nearly lost my cousin," Olmstead said. "She was T-boned and lost part of her leg from a drunk driver, and her boyfriend died. So, this is very important."

Olmstead said it made her sad that some students, concerned about not "being cool" in front of their peers, had been poking fun about the event and not taking it seriously.

"It's not a joking matter," she said. "There have been kids laughing while we've been doing this."

Brooks agreed about the importance of the event and that some students were not on the same page.

"The event makes a big impact," she said. "But, like Kya said, kids don't take this serious enough. I feel like, if they did, they think they would lose their peers and perception of being cool."

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