Wakeland High School senior Hannah Mandell laid on the ground, writhing and sobbing in pain. Three of her classmates were still inside a wrecked car as the Grim Reaper lurked nearby. A few empty beer bottles were scattered around.
The scene outside the school wasn’t real, but the detail of the mock crash scene – from the smashed-in front bumper to the fake blood – made it feel life like.
It was all part of Shattered Dreams, a two-day program designed to educate students about the dangers of underage drinking and the severe consequences that can result from impaired driving.
The program, hosted this year at Wakeland and Centennial high schools, is coordinated by the Frisco Police Department’s School Resource Officer unit and supported by police, the Frisco Fire Department, Frisco ISD and several community sponsors.
The event involves a significant amount of planning and coordination. A video produced by broadcast students sets the scene for a car accident near campus. An actual response from police, fire and other first responders allow students to experience what would occur in an actual emergency.
A student driver submits to field sobriety tests and is transported to jail, booked and arraigned by a judge. Crash victims are transported to the hospital via ambulance and helicopter. Emergency staff at Baylor, Scott & White Centennial and Medical City Frisco treat their patients and notify the victims’ parents of their children’s condition. Not all the students make it. Even staff from Turrentine Jackson Morrow Funeral Home transport a student who dies at the scene. The whole thing is captured in video and photographs to maximize the impact on students.
“We encourage our Titans every day to make good choices, but words do not have nearly the same impact as the visual scene that students witness as part of Shattered Dreams,” said Centennial High School Principal Dr. Alicia Maphies. “The scene is so incredibly real, and unlike Hollywood or their previous perceptions, it is also very raw; the collective experience has a profound influence on our kids.”
When students return to class after the mock accident, students selected to represent the “Living Dead” are plucked from their classrooms and sent back with white faces to symbolize how often people in the United States are killed in alcohol-related accidents. A police officer reads each student’s obituary, which is written by their parents. That evening, the student actors and members of the Living Dead attend an overnight retreat to enhance the learning experience. There is even a funeral for the victims the next day.
Shattered Dreams rotates through different Frisco ISD high schools each year and is supported by several local businesses as well as Frisco’s Photo Enforcement program. A police department Citizen Advisory Committee votes to allocate funding from red light fines to the program each year.
“Shattered Dreams has the same value as when it was launched in Frisco 17 years ago,” said Sgt. Brad Merritt of the Frisco Police Department School Resource Officer unit. “It still has a heavy impact on students and continues to receive positive feedback from school staff, parents and community members.”
For Wakeland senior Sydnee Saunders, who played the role of a student arrested for driving while intoxicated, the implications are real. If she were actually arrested for drinking and driving, she would lose her scholarship to play volleyball at Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
She hopes her classmates get the message.
“I hope they understand to be responsible with their actions and realize the impact that you can have on others’ lives and how fast – in the blink of an eye – that it can be over,” she said.