High school kids in Lena are learning about the dangers of drinking and driving through a crash course that shows them the real life consequences of the deadly mistake.
Every 15 minutes someone in the United States dies in an alcohol related car wreck. Today a dozen students in Lena played the role of victims and drunk drivers in what staff at Lena High School hope will be a life changing scenario.
For a dozen Lena High students on Thursday they are more than just Juniors and Seniors, they are the walking dead. Today they play the role of lives lost in a untimely fashion due to drunk driving.
"It happens a lot. You hear about it all the time on the news," says Sarah Manning who plays one of the victims in a car wreck on campus today.
A representation of the loss that all too often happens when people get behind the wheel drunk is on display for students. Two wrecked vehicles are in the high school’s parking lot with victims scattered about. The Junior and Senior class watch from bleachers as paramedics and cops race to the scene and attempt to save the perceived victims.
"I mean they know it's not real but still it hits you," adds Manning.
"To think about actually losing a friend like that it's really heartbreaking," say one of the walking dead Senior Keegan Imig.
While the Lena class of about 50 students took in the mock scenario it became apparent, this was real for some. Including the Oconto Falls Fire Chief Tim Magnin, who has seen scenarios like this in real life first hand.
"It's not easy to deal with. You try to get it out of your head but it's not always easy. You don't forget any of those calls," says Magnin.
By showing these kids the real life consequences of drinking and driving teachers and councilors hope the message sticks.
"What we're hoping is that they can see the finality of death," says Shelly Meisner the Lena Public School Districts Guidance Counselor.
Today the walking dead, those dozen students mentioned earlier, were taken out of their classrooms in front of their peers. For the remainder of the day they are to act as if they don’t exist. They are in essence ghosts. Obituaries of their passing were posted in the halls detailing their aspirations in life and how they were taken too soon on the account of a drunken driver. This powerful display sends the message to the whole student body, how fast life can change on the account of a huge mistake.
"We're hoping that if we can change the lives of even one person it's going to make a huge difference," adds Meisner.
"If you're gonna drink don't be stupid enough to get into a car," says Manning.
Because while reading an obituary for anyone you hold dear is hard. Finding out it could all have been avoided can be even worse.
Tomorrow at Lena High School the Every 15 Minutes campaign will continue with two guest speakers. A drunk driver who took someone’s life because of their deadly mistake will speak to the student body along with a family who had to deal with the aftermath of their choice to get behind the wheel drunk.