Soon, emergency personnel, police and firemen were dispatched to Pleasanton High School to find five students involved in an accident, most of them injured badly. One student was dead at the scene. Broken glass, blood and beer cans covered the ground next to the two beige vehicles.
Fortunately, the scene was only a re-enactment, part of the program called Shattered Dreams, held on May 2 and 3. Students and adult volunteers throughout Atascosa County staged an exercise in which student Jacquelyn Olle, portraying the intoxicated driver, is responsible for causing a wreck.
Nathan Contreras played the part of the passenger in Olle’s car who was dead at the scene. Other actors were students Gabriella Arredondo, portraying the part of the driver who was treated at the hospital, Raul Garza who portrayed the passenger transported by EMS who later died and passenger Sienna Cardenas. Cardenas played the passenger who was transported by AirLife and then declared a fatality.
PHS students in grades 9th-12th gathered around the fence at the Performing Arts Center parking lot to watch the scene unfold. They focused intently on the emergency technicians, firemen and law enforcement as they assessed the students and conducted sobriety tests.
The students also watched as the Grim Reaper led a line of the Living Dead, who donned black and white make-up. These students represented the statistic that about every 15 minutes in America, a person loses their life in an alcohol-related car crash. It was an eerie scene, as the Grim Reaper encountered the injured students.
The Pleasanton Police Department later arrived at South Texas Regional Medical Center in Jourdanton for a blood draw of the drunk driver. The actual parents (not actors) of the students were notified to learn of their injuries.
EMS then arrived at STRMC with passenger Garza. Olle was also booked at the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office. The parents of the deceased were also notified.
Two of the Living Dead, seniors Neena Rodriguez and Brenton Bouchillon, talked about the impact the program had on them.
“This is a chance to help your friends realize that it is a big deal and it can be devastating,” Bouchillon said.
“That could be any one of our close friends,” said Rodriguez.
She said she couldn’t imagine a family hurting because they lost their child. Their family’s lives would be completely ruined.
Bouchillon realized the impact and how terrible it would be, especially this late in the school year.
Both students said that when they go out, their parents remind them to be safe and not drink and drive.
“I hope that parents are saying that to their children, so that it triggers in their mind... that I do need to be safe. I do need to be careful because this could happen easily,” said Rodriguez.
Gary Soward said this was the first Shattered Dreams program he has participated in. He found it to be traumatic and a real eyeopener. Soward noticed how many of the students observing were crying. On behalf of all law enforcement, he hopes that students will make the right choice and not drink and drive.
“It was very realistic. They know it was staged, but it still gets to them. It hits close to their heart,” said Chief Soward.
The program allows students to see what could possibly happen to their friends, Soward added. Those involved in drinking and driving situations could face intoxication manslaughter (if someone is killed) or intoxi- cation assault (if someone is injured), explained Soward.
The following day, a mock memorial service took place at the PHS Sports Complex for the crash victims and the Living Dead. Mock obituaries on posterboard lined the complex bleachers.
Pleasanton ROTC members served as ushers. They carried a casket as the Pleasanton Choir sang, “Gentle Annie.” Vince Carrasco followed with a beautiful rendition of the song, “Cryin’ For Me.”
Sherry Sommer of the Pleasanton ISD Grant Department welcomed everyone. She said Shattered Dreams is about drinking and driving. It is about living and dying.
“It makes us face the reality that too many young lives have already been lost and countless others severely impacted, because of the tragic consequences of drinking combined with driving,” said Sommer. “This morning we have gathered together as friends, family and a community to reflect on the tragic event we witnessed yesterday.”
Sommer described it as being truly as close as one can get to the experience someone is faced with, when every 15 minutes there is a death related to drunk driving in the U.S.
“Drinking and driving not only kills, but it alters the course of many lives and shatters the dreams that so many have built their world around. The most horrible thing is not dying in an accident like yesterday, but living with the aftermath of their choices,” Sommer said.
She ended by stating Shattered Dreams is a labor of love and she prayed it would have a lasting impression on everyone. She hoped it would help guide students to make wise choices.
Also speaking at the service were Melida Cardenas, mother of Sienna Cardenas, and students Lexie Roane and Cassie Ortiz. Guest speaker was Donna McCain who shared the story of her daughter in college who made the right choices, but died as a result of someone else drinking and driving.
Pleasanton ISD Superintendent Dr. Cynthia Clinesmith was the last to speak.
“As I look at all of you, I know that you experience loss in different ways, maybe not so suddenly or so senseless, but I know that each of you can take something from this,” said Clinesmith.
She said this was the first time she saw the high school students in such a large group. As she watched them, she said it made her proud to be part of this school district.
“I watched you treat this moment, which we know is a re-enactment, but you’ve taken this message and you’ve treated it with respect, responsibility and maturity. You have honored the guests who came to share their stories. I hope that is an indication that you truly are reflecting on what this message says to us,” Clinesmith said.
In total, 21 were honored at the service. They were: Jasmine Alvarado, Amber Bas, Amanda Bast, Brenton Bouchillon, Sienna Cardenas, Carol Cashmer, Kimberly Castillo, Nathan Contreras, Nicole Garza, Raul Garza, Gabriella Gonzales, James Hamilton, Justin Llamas, John Merryman, Cassandra Ortiz, Kathryn Ortiz, Renee Perez, Jo Mari Reyes, Alexandra Roane, Neena Rodriguez and Montana Wilson.
The Pleasanton ISD Grant Department would like to extend their gratitude to everyone, both behind and in front of the scenes, that helped make this event successful. They wish to send a special thank you to the participants, their parents and the committee volunteers.
They also thank members of the community, especially the Pleasanton Police Department, Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office, Atascosa County EMS, Pleasanton Volunteer Fire Department, Methodist Air Care, STRMC, J.P. Betty Caballero, The Chuck Wagon, Vince Carrasco, Jessica Sanchez, Eastern Stars, The Greener Image, AP Electric, Wells Construction, Donovan Garcia, Xavier Garcia, Johnny’s Paint and Body, Hurley Funeral Home and Virginia Twins who supported this program.
ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION BY YOUTH IN TEXAS
Underage drinking is widespread in Texas. Approximately 1,206,000 underage customers in Texas drink each year. In 2009, Texas students in grades 9-12 reported:
•76.2 percent had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more days during their life.
•23.6 percent had their first drink of alcohol, other than a few sips, before age 13.
•44.8 percent had at least one drink of alcohol on one or more occasion in the past 30 days.
•25.6% percent had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row (binge drinking) in the past 30 days.
•4.7 percent had at least one drink of alcohol on school property in the past 30 days.
There will be more video added of Shattered Dreams through out the week. Check back with us.