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Prom Promise makes traffic fatalities real for South Hagerstown High students

April 25, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Matthew Eaton is treated at a mock accident scene that was part of the Prom Promise program Thursday at South Hagerstown High School.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

Brett Jamison said she found herself getting tearful while playing a dead teenager in a fatal accident skit for the Prom Promise program at South Hagerstown High School on Thursday.

“When I heard the sirens, that’s when it really snapped in,” Jamison, 18, a senior at South High said. “This is real, and some people just don’t take it into consideration.”

The program, which included the skit and a slide show of actual fatal accidents, had juniors and seniors at the school pledge not to drive while intoxicated or distracted, just in time for the South High prom Saturday night.

The skit, performed in the school’s parking lot, also involved police officers and firefighters. It began as if an SUV carrying two high school students hit a car carrying four high school students, including Jamison, from behind, causing her character to be thrown from the vehicle and killed.

Firefighters from the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. and the Hagerstown Fire Department showed up to tear apart the car to free the three students who were “trapped” inside, the Maryland State Police questioned those portraying the driver and passenger in the SUV and eventually to arrest the “driver” for being under the influence of alcohol and looking at a text message before the accident.

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On top of that, a helicopter showed up to airlift one of the passengers in the car, a coroner arrived for Jamison’s body, and two teachers played the roles of her parents on the scene.

Jerry Keplinger, assistant chief of the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co., explained what was happening to the students.

“The coroner has to report to somebody’s family that a bad thing has happened,” he told them as the coroner covered Jamison’s face with a sheet. “It’s very traumatic for family members. The white sheet means one of your classmates just passed away.”

Caitlin Myers, who teaches Social Studies, played Jamison’s mother and said the situation felt “incredibly real.”

“It was Earth-shattering,” she said. “It is something I hope I never see.”

South High senior Reggie Anderson, 18, played the driver of the SUV, and, like Jamison, said that the situation really hit him once the sirens went off.

“It felt so real when I was in the car,” he said. “I really think it had an impact on people.”

After the skit, the students went into the auditorium, where they watched a slide show that showed images of dead bodies and damaged property from fatal accidents involving alcohol in Washington County.

The slideshow was presented by Maryland State Police Sgt. Phillip Martin.

Martin warned students of the consequences they could face if they drive while under the influence of alcohol.

“If you like your license, you’re going to lose it,” he told them. “Please do not end up in one of these slide shows somebody is showing to a later class.”

The Prom Promise program has been part of Washington County Public Schools for more than a decade, South High Assistant Principal Matthew Mauricello said.

South High and North High alternate each year between having the skit or viewing a presentation from a guest speaker about the dangers of distracted or drunken driving.

Keplinger said after the skit that he thinks it “resonates pretty well” with the students.

“We try to make it as dramatized as possible while still keeping it safe for everybody involved,” he said. “I know that we have not had any fatal accidents in the South High prom since we’ve been doing this.”

Martin said the addition of the slide show can help the students understand that what happened in the skit can be real.

“Seeing the re-enactment out on the blacktop is a good thing, but knowing it’s not real, it doesn’t always take the full effect,” he said. “We need for these young folks to know that there are indeed serious consequences.”

Nationwide Auto Insurance started Prom Promise in 1990 and teamed up with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to create in 2005 a new program for high school students called THINK.

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