Teen dreams shattered in mock accident
An alcohol-related car crash, 43 students dead, a beloved teacher taken and a popular student arrested.
Although the scenario was fake, these were realities students of North Tahoe High School had to face Wednesday and Thursday during Shattered Dreams, a program designed to keep students from drinking and driving, especially after tonight’s prom and upcoming graduation.
“It’s very difficult because we have had over the years to tell people that their sons and daughters aren’t coming home. I think about my own kids and how I’d feel,” said Sgt. Dan Ingalls of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, which heads the program with Youth In Action. “I think it’s a good tool. It’s not a fix-all. It’s a good tool trying to get kids to think what their decisions will lead to. We’re leaving a long-standing reaction and emotion.”
On Wednesday, Youth In Action members dressed as angels, and along with a grim reaper, took students out of class throughout the day. Those students were pronounced “dead” and were not allowed to speak with their friends the rest of the day or go home that night. Members of the sheriff’s department read the obituary of the student aloud to the class and then the name was recited over the intercom.
“It was creepy seeing your friends’ faces,” said Beenie Grigoleit, a freshman who was taken from her class. “Hearing your name over the intercom is intense.”
The entire school then witnessed a mock car crash, in which students had been drinking and driving. The mock crash killed Jennifer Jurosky, a history teacher at the high school. Junior ZJ Whittemore was killed on scene and senior Eli Osborne was arrested for driving under the influence.
Care Flight and cop cars responded. Students said the scene had an impact.
“It was good because everyone cares about her,” senior Iain Lowis said of Jurosky. “She’s less of a teacher and more of a friend.”
The “dead students” participated in a candlelight vigil Wednesday night in the high school gym and wrote letters home to their parents. In turn, parents were asked to write letters to their children.
“It’s very, very hard being asked to write an obituary and farewell letter,” said Terry Sitkoff, whose daughter, Anna, was one of the dead students. “Making the experience real was devastating. This is something as a parent, it’s your biggest fear. If you’re feeling this intensity as a mock thing, I can’t imagine how it would be for real.”
Speakers enforced the message Thursday during a school-wide assembly where North Tahoe Middle School eighth graders also participated because five of their classmates were taken out of their class as dead students. Five students from Tahoe Truckee High School also attended since their school no longer holds the Shattered Dreams program.
Students saw a video of what happened after the car crash, with Jurosky at the hospital and Osborne in jail. Representatives from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and California Highway Patrol spoke, along with Kathie Fenley, whose mother was killed by a drunk driver 18 years ago.
“Don’t get into a car with someone who has been drinking and driving,” said Stan Perez, CHP chief of the Truckee office. “Help put us out of business.”
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