The simple white crosses at the corner of Coit and Rolater roads in Frisco were adorned with the names of real Centennial students – though their deaths were only pretend.
The markers brought forth solemn thoughts from students, parents and passing drivers as Centennial High School was the site of the first of two Shattered Dreams programs to be held in Frisco ISD this spring. Wakeland High School will be the site of the next Shattered Dreams program on April 30 and May 1.
The police, fire and rescue teams, along with a CareFlite helicopter, were not responding to an actual car accident mid-morning on Thursday, April 9. The Grim Reaper hovered over the vehicles in full view and the blood was made of corn syrup, chocolate syrup and red food coloring. But when the police radio call went out over the loud speakers announcing a major vehicle accident with extraction needed and the sirens began to wail, it was difficult to separate reality from the dramatization of a drunk driving accident.
Shattered Dreams is a program supported by Frisco ISD and the City of Frisco’s Police and Fire Departments each year to impress upon students the need to drive sober and to be careful, particularly around the time of senior proms, team banquets and graduation parties.
Students volunteer to be selected to re-enact the injuries and deaths that result from a party after a fictitious prom. For two days, the selected high school staff and student body carries on with lessons punctuated with the reading of obituaries, the rescue at the accident scene, seeing classmates who are “living dead” sitting in their desks made up to look like corpses and eventually attending a dramatized funeral.
“We want to hit as many students and campuses as possible with this message,” said Sgt. Jon Skaehill as police gathered at CHS to coordinate the event.
As Frisco ISD adds high schools, the goal to give all students the opportunity to experience Shattered Dreams at some point during their four-year high school career becomes more complicated. This year and in the coming few years, there will be events held at two campuses. The remaining high schools reinforce the message in less elaborate ways.
“When we add the tenth school (Memorial High School), it will be more complicated,” Skaehill said, adding that there has been talk of a third Shattered Dreams event, perhaps in the fall before a homecoming dance.
Shattered Dreams requires many man hours by teachers, students and all the rescue and safety departments involved. Hospital staff, crime scene investigators and chaplains are involved, as well as emergency crews. The students selected to portray the drunk drivers are put through sobriety tests in front of the entire student body and put into handcuffs when they fail.
“If even one student is saved because of this, it is worth it,” was the common refrain from parents who came to observe the scene.
David Eilar and Kimberlee Houston, parents of Abigail Eilar, say they found writing her obituary to be read aloud at school tough going.
“He had to do it,” said her mom. They kept secret the fact that Abigail was selected to be one of the “living dead” from their daughter for over a month, but other family members knew.
“Her grandmother didn’t like it. She thought it was a bad omen,” David Eilar said. But he and Kimberlee were of the opinion that their daughter was dedicated to doing something important that might end up saving a life.
That feeling was echoed by Heather Stevens, mother of Sydney Webler. Sydney has wanted to be a part of Shattered Dreams since middle school.
“It was like a sign when she was chosen,” said Stevens, who requested the day off from work. “I said I have to be off, my daughter’s going to die tomorrow.”
Thankfully, the accident wasn’t real. But it is a potential consequence organizers hope stays on the mind of students who get behind the wheel this spring.