Every 15 Minutes program asks students to confront the dangers of drinking and driving
By Hannah Bensen, Editor in Chief
While hundreds of students looked on, West Bend East High School teacher Jeff Rondorf was taken away in an ambulance.
The Every 15 Minutes program took an unusual twist this year by including a faculty member in its plotline. Rondorf, a business education teacher, “died” on Friday due to injuries sustained in an accident caused by a drunk driver. The events were not real, but they simulated the graphic realities of such an incident.
Every other year, WBHS depicts the consequences of drinking and driving during the week leading up to prom. The emotional two-day event began Thursday with a mock car crash with students playing the roles of the drunk driver and the victims. It ended today with a school assembly and video that further warned of the dangers of drunk driving.
“(The program is intended) to discourage students from making bad choices regarding alcohol,” said Ralph Schlass, assistant principal and primary organizer of the event. “What we want to do is show a person who is completely healthy with their whole future ahead of them, and a poor decision can lead to them being behind bars or injuring other people.”
This year, Schlass, along with a group of students, chose to include Rondorf in the program.
“At first I was a little nervous about it, considering the responsibilities that go along with it,” Rondorf said. “But it’s a great opportunity to help others realize the dangers and consequences behind these types of actions. If we can try to help students make a better choice not only this weekend, but for the rest of their life, it will pay off.”
West Bend was one of the first schools in southeast Wisconsin to enact the program, starting in 2006. It always involves a lot of responsibility for Schlass, who must coordinate with the West Bend Police Department and Fire Department, the Washington County Courthouse, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Flight for Life and a funeral home.
Throughout the day on Thursday, a selected group of students were removed from their classes at 15-minute intervals by the Grim Reaper, to reflect the statistic that every 15 minutes someone dies from an alcohol-related accident in the U.S.
The students’ obituaries were read over the loudspeaker. The students then returned to class with deathly-looking makeup applied, and were not allowed to speak. This was supposed to mimic the effects of what would happen if a classmate died.
The presentation had a powerful impact on students who viewed the program.
“It’s an important message for (people) to see and I believe when you see your friends getting injured or sprawled across cars, it really hits,” said East junior Maggie Ciriacks. “I knew it was not real, but watching that made me wonder, what if it was? I could not imagine losing the people around me to a drunk driver. It was hard to just sit on the side and watch as my friends had glass coming through their arm or flew from the back seat, and that was only a simulation.”
Throughout the car crash simulation on Thursday, technology students took photos and video footage in order to prepare the 30-minute video that was viewed during today’s assembly. The students worked throughout the night with their teacher, Michael Bentdahl, and finished the video at 6 a.m. this morning.
“The people that help with it do a good job of creating it to be as realistic as possible,” Schlass said. “Parents are writing obituaries about their children and the people who are making the video do a fantastic job of tugging on your heartstrings.”
(Photos by Editor in Chief Hannah Bensen and Current reporter Gabrielle Diaz. Videos courtesy of Michael Bentdahl.)