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Felons warn students about dangers of drunken driving (w/video)

May 2, 2014 at 12:02 a.m.

Victoria West senior Chase Bennett comforts fellow senior Danielle Alvarez during the fake memorial service Friday morning for Shattered Dreams. Eighteen students were pulled from the classroom by the Grim Reaper on  Thursday to represent the fact  that one person is killed by a drunken driver every 15 minutes.

THE PROCESS

Victoria West High School students started Thursday morning in class, where the Grim Reaper, portrayed by football coach James McCarter, began to select students who volunteered to act as the living dead, representing the young people who die every 15 minutes on the nation's roadways.

From there, students gathered outside the school to watch the emergency response units work the staged drunken driving accident scene.

A Citizens Air Medical helicopter whirred onto the scene to transport a gravely injured student actor to the hospital.

A hearse later appeared to pick up another student actor who died at the scene.

The student who played the drunken driver was arrested and booked by Department of Public Safety troopers.

He was later released and joined the other student volunteers for an overnight lock-in at the YMCA of the Golden Crescent to further dramatize the loss.

On Friday, a fake memorial service featuring a casket procession was held in the school gymnasium. Parents of the dead read their child's obituary during the service.

Source: Victoria school district

With his arms crossed across his chest and face covered in black and white makeup, Victoria West High School senior John Hill had a somber look on his face.

"It's very real," John, 17, said as a 911 tape played over the speakers at the high school gymnasium Friday morning.

On Thursday, Victoria West students got a taste of tragedy from a staged drunken-driving demonstration called Shattered Dreams.

John portrayed the driver of the vehicle that was struck by a drunken driver.

At the memorial service, he was seated next to other student actors representing the living dead.

"I hope today you take what's happened seriously and that you understand what it means to have your dreams shattered," said Victoria West Principal Debbie Crick.

During the presentation, two Texas Department of Criminal Justice Clarence N. Stevenson Unit inmates convicted of intoxication manslaughter shared their stories with the young audience.

Michael Mattioli, 34, dressed in a white jumpsuit, recalled the night he took the lives of two college students in Austin.

"They died on the scene," Mattioli said. "For the rest of my life, I have to live with the fact that I took two beautiful lives."

They received a similar message from a Victoria emergency first responder.

"Tragedy is real, and it could happen to you," said Tracy Fox, Victoria Fire Department assistant chief.

For at least one student, the message came across clearly.

"I thought it was pretty powerful," said Vanischa Stephens, 17, a Victoria West student.

Hearing the inmates share their real-life accounts helped drive the message home, she said.

"It must be hard knowing that you killed somebody," said Vanischa. "I'm scared to drive, but this has been a good way of showing us what we shouldn't be doing while driving."

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