The program was started in 1995 by the Chico Police Department and is now an event staged at high schools throughout California, including Foothill and Amador Valley High School, which alternate each year in hosting the program. Realism is what "Every 15 Minutes" is about. Last week's event incorporated a crashed car placed on Foothill Road, role-playing by more than 30 students, including a driver of the crashed car and two others "killed" in the accident, student assemblies and retreats held for students and parents who were part of the effort. Pleasanton police, firefighters from the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department, the Alameda County coroner's office, ambulance drivers, a helicopter pilot and many others joined in the program, contributing their services and equipment.
Katie and Kayla, with the help of their Leadership Class teacher Shannon Sos, handled all of this. Although sanctioned by the Pleasanton school district, the program is strictly student-run with this year's $30,000 in costs raised by the girls and fellow students who asked Pleasanton organizations and businesses to help. Although some equipment and services were donated, much, such as rented bleachers and the services of a videotaping firm and discounted hotel meeting rooms, weren't.
By restricting participation to juniors and seniors, both high schools can better manage the program and also gear it to those with drivers' licenses. It's also meant to be a surprise, adding to the emotional impact as students are released from their classes just in time to go to the crash site. Emotions peak as a tarpaulin is pulled off the vehicle and students see their bloodied classmates, all this as sirens wail in the distance with police and ambulances heading toward the accident scene.
Police arrested the driver while others treated the "injured" and the coroner placed the "dead" in a van and drove away. To add to the impact, students who agreed to serve as "the living dead" were called out of their classrooms by police, with the officer reading their obituary as each student leaves. A loud, ominous heartbeat is broadcast across the campus before each of the living dead is pulled out of class, signifying that someone is dying every 15 minutes in an alcohol-related traffic accident somewhere in country. All of this happened in perfect synchronization and timing, thanks to Katie and Kayla's good work.
To keep the project a secret, Leadership teacher Sos made sure his two students had a small private office for meetings, phone calls, planning sessions and more. By getting the assignment a year ago, Katie was able to take her first look at the "Every 15 Minutes" program at Amador last April and then talk to organizers there. Kayla also had an advantage: Her two older sisters, Elise, a 2008 Foothill graduate, and Jules, who graduated in 2010, were both on the "Every 15 Minutes" cast in their senior years and proved to be good resources. Clearly, Foothill's program highlighted the concern we all have over drinking and driving. Katie and Kayla's success in this important effort is not only a plus for our community, but it's an accomplishment that will reap major rewards in their college years and future careers.