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Participant reflects on impact of ‘Every 15 Minutes’

Students+who+%22died%22+had+their+obituaries+displayed+in+the+commons.
Students who

Students who "died" had their obituaries displayed in the commons.

Allison Koontz

Allison Koontz

Students who "died" had their obituaries displayed in the commons.

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The class sat silent as the officer read the short paragraph summarizing the life of a teen who was killed in a distracted driving related crash. In a surreal moment of horror, I realized the obituary was my own.

The Texas Department of Transportation recently brought the program “Every 15 Minutes” to Canyon High School. Approximately every 15 minutes, a person dies in an alcohol or distracted driving related crash, and the program simulated this statistic by selecting students to “die” for a day, demonstrating to the student body how the loss of life would affect the school.

When I heard my entire life summed up in three sentences, I realized the profound impact this program could make.”

— Callie Boren

I was desperately trying to figure out a physics problem when the buzz of the intercom came on and I heard, “Callie Michelle Boren was killed in a distracted driving related crash April 7, 2016.” My class went silent as an officer stepped into the room and continued the story, briefly highlighting my hobbies and passions. Before I heard my own obituary, I did not take the program too seriously. I never felt a need to imagine life in which my friends died in order to stay away from irresponsible decisions, but when I heard my entire life summed up in three sentences, I realized the profound impact this program could make.

Throughout the day, more and more people stood out in my mind as impactful members of our school community, and not only because their faces were painted white. In the contagious complacency of high school, I had forgotten how much of an impact students make in their spheres of influence. From choir to student council to the football team, every student in the program contributed to our school in one way or another. The thought of one of them dying because of someone else’s poor choice left me completely awestruck as to how anyone could choose to drink and drive, but it also caused me to consider other choices.

Some people dread the environment of high school while others bask in it. People rarely stop to consider what makes high school the way it is: students. Each student at Canyon High contributes in his or her own way. Contrary to what some people feel, no one is here just to add to the numbers.

The Every 15 Minutes program demonstrated what the absence of impactful students could do to a school, but it did not show the power of their presence. That impact does not require a designated day to be observed. This program should serve as a reminder to students that their daily words and actions make a difference for better or for worse, regardless of age or social status. If my peers and I begin to look at every day as a chance to make a positive impact on the world, an invitation to my own funeral will be completely worth it.

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Participant reflects on impact of ‘Every 15 Minutes’