A scene from the 2016 Every 15 Minutes program at Ellsworth High School. FILE PHOTO

“Every 15 Minutes” program coming to Deer Isle-Stonington

DEER ISLE — On April 6 and 7, Deer Isle-Stonington High School and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office will present the “Every 15 Minutes” program to the student body.

“Every 15 Minutes” is an intense and emotional two-day program about the consequences of drinking and driving, said Todd West, principal of Deer Isle-Stonington High School.

“This program involves parents and their children as well as their school and community,” he said.

Although Every 15 Minutes focuses on drinking and driving, students need to understand that senseless tragedies happen every day for other driving-related issues such as speeding, failure to use a seat belt, texting while driving, or just by being a passenger in a motor vehicle, West said.

“Every 15 Minutes is designed to challenge students to think about how the deadly combination of drinking and driving and a motor vehicle could affect not only their lives, but also the lives of those who love them,” he said.

The first day of the program begins with the Grim Reaper removing selected students from their classrooms, one every 15 minutes to represent Americans who die in alcohol-related accidents. An officer enters the class and reads the student’s obituary, which has been written by the student’s parent/guardian.

The removed students are given “Every 15 Minutes” T-shirts and their faces are painted white. They are then sent back to class and will be unable to talk to their friends or faculty/staff to symbolize those who perished in a drunk-driving accident. Simultaneously, parents are notified of their child’s fatal traffic accident by uniformed police officers.

After lunch on April 6, a simulated fatal traffic crash will be staged at the school, West said. One student will be “arrested” for OUI, while two other students will be “injured” and transported by ambulance to the hospital. One student will be “declared deceased” at the scene and will be transported to a local funeral home.

At the end of the first day, the students involved in the actual role playing parts will be bused to a facility to spend the night away from their family and friends. During this retreat they will be asked to write a letter to their parent(s)/guardian(s) that begins with “Dear Mom and Dad, Every 15 minutes someone in the U.S. dies from an alcohol-related accident and today I died. I never got the chance to tell you…..”  The following morning the students will be transported back to school for a mock memorial service for the “deceased” student.

“As you might imagine this can be a very powerful and emotional program,” West said. “The goal is not to simply upset people; rather, the hope is that students will be more aware of how devastating substance abuse related fatalities can be upon families, a school, and a community.”

The program is made possible by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, a committee group of school and community volunteers and donations from the Deer Isle-Stonington community.