May 2, 2009 in Washington Voices

Students get up-close look at drunken driving’s devastation

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Photo courtesy of Central Valley School District photo

Evergreen Middle School students collected 1,162 pounds of pet food for SCRAPS animal shelter. From left are, Joshua Meng, Kaitlyn Richardson, Madison Rountree and Brenda Skinfill. Photo courtesy of Central Valley School District
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

East Valley High School senior Adam Szember lay still and bloody across the hood of a tan car, having been launched through the windshield.

The driver, senior Tyler Sullivan, staggered around in a drunken daze, while the driver of the white car he hit lay slumped over the steering wheel. A girl in a bloody prom dress shrieked and yelled as she berated Sullivan and tried to rouse the driver of the white car.

It was a scene of mayhem and violence outside East Valley High School on Tuesday, but it was all an elaborate performance designed to make teens think twice about drinking and driving as graduation and prom approach.

The mock crash was acted out by East Valley students with the help of the Spokane Valley Fire Department, Spokane Valley Police Department, Washington State Patrol and local ambulances. It was organized by the school’s Washington Drug Free Youth chapter.

All juniors and seniors were out in Tuesday morning’s blustery weather to watch firefighters use the Jaws of Life to pry open one of the cars. It only took 20 minutes for firefighters to extract the victim from the car, load the injured into ambulances and finish their work.

For the purposes of the enactment, Szember was declared dead, two others were injured and Sullivan was arrested for drunken driving. Szember was hauled away in a body bag. “It was just pretty real, sitting there and listening to the kids around me,” Szamber said as fake blood was cleaned off him.

It also felt real to Sullivan, who bumbled his way through sobriety tests and felt handcuffs snapped around his wrists. “It was scary,” he said.

The crash was part of a morning-long assembly that included a talk by Scott Houim, a 2006 North Central graduate who was a passenger in a drunken-driving wreck in 2004. His friend drove a borrowed car off a dead-end road and into a house. Houim, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, was launched out his open window and hit the house head first. “I broke my neck,” he said. “I was in a coma for about a week.”

The driver of the car was running from the police at the time because they were both drunk and the car wasn’t theirs. Houim said he’s grateful that no one else was injured and said he got what he deserved for making such poor choices. “I made a full recovery,” he said. “We got lucky.”

The students also attended a memorial service for Szember, complete with a memorial program and a eulogy delivered by his mother. Principal Jeff Miller said everything seemed to sink in when students came back in the gym for the service and were all handed the programs, which included Szember’s picture and a list of pallbearers. “They just looked at it and went and sat down like it was a memorial service,” he said. “They didn’t say a word.”

The actors in the drama spoke with their fellow students in the commons after the funeral. Miller said that Szember choked up when he tried to talk about the eulogy his mother had given, turning his back on his classmates and sitting down to collect himself.

“It was a successful thing,” Miller said. “Lots of red eyes and tears even though it was a total enactment.”

Pet food drive

The students at Evergreen Middle School recently collected pet food for a week and donated 1,162 pounds of food to the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service.

The drive was organized by students in Kim Trent’s leadership class. The SCRAPS shelter relies on donated food to feed the animals in its shelter.

Scholarship awards

The Central Valley PTA Council has awarded three Michael Gomez Jr. Memorial Scholarships of $500 each.

The recipients are David Wang, of Central Valley High School, and Stevie Gildehaus and Kimberly Le, both of University High School. The scholarships are based on academic achievement, community service and financial need.

Outdoor Learning Center open house

The West Valley Outdoor Learning Center will host an open house today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in honor of International Migratory Bird Day.

There will be live raptors and a visit from the Eastern Washington University mascot. Those attending can also learn bird watching techniques and make a bird feeder or a bird house. The center is at 8706 E. Upriver Drive.

School carnival

South Pines Elementary will host a school carnival Friday from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

There will be pony rides, a petting zoo, jump house, cake walk, games and food. Game tickets will be 25 cents each or a wristband can be purchased for $10. The school is at 12021 E. 24th.

If you have news about Spokane Valley schools, call Nina Culver at (509) 927-2158 or e-mail ninac@spokesman.com.

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