Every 15 Minutes hits MHS
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Jay Chapel funeral director Mark Peruch guides in the casket of Madera High student Isabel Jimenez for a reenacted funeral at the gym on Friday as part of the “Every 15 Minutes” program following a simulated car crash the day before.
The “Every 15 Minutes” program is intended to give high school students an emotionally-charged experience without the real-life risks and students at Madera High School saw the consequences first-hand.
A little more than a month ago, MHS senior Roberto Lopez-Arellanes lost his life in a solo motorcycle accident. Coincidentally, the “Every 15 Monutes” program was staged at nearly the same place he lost his life on March 23.
“Every 15 Minutes” is an event designed to dramatically instill in teenagers the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol then driving. Furthermore, students will be challenged to think about distracted driving such as texting, smoking, personal safety and the responsibility of making mature decisions when other lives are involved.
Josh Landeros and Isabel Jimenez lost their lives in the set-up accident while Apolonio Ordaz was the one arrested for driving under the influence. MHS juniors and seniors saw the event, which was held on Olive Avenue, and it even included a helicopter air lift.
The next day, students were ushered into Joe Flores Gym to witness the fake-funeral, but it was another step to make sure students understood the consequences of some of their decisions.
“It really tells you how serious it is. It’s no joke,” said senior Logan Wattenbarger. “We want to start showing to other people that may not care that it’s really serious.”
The deaths of Lopez-Arellanes and Jimenez in the “Every 15 Minutes” program reiterated how precious life can be.
“It’s important to be responsible outside of school,” said senior and Lopez-Arellano’s football teammate Adam Landero. “Something like that happens to a friend, it takes a toll on you. You want to do everything you can to prevent that from happening to you. When you go out, don’t be stupid and be responsible. It hits the whole community when something like that happens to one of the players.”
Lopez-Arellano’s football coach Kenny Paolinelli hopes students make the right decision.
“This just reiterates that one instance, one bad decision or one moment can change the rest of someone’s life,” he said. “They are going to see the effects on the family with the funeral. When they roll those kids in on the stretcher and the casket, that’s when it hits home. We’ve lost too much already. It shows that one moment can change the life of a lot of people.”
Students had to witness the funeral and how many people one bad decision can have an affect on.
“It made me really sad. I was emotional about it,” senior Erika Perez said. “It was hard to watch. I’ve always told myself I would never drive drinking, never get into a car with someone who had been drinking and I’d be responsible enough to tell my friends they aren’t allowed to drive if they have been drinking. I would take their keys.”
“Every 15 Minutes” was held for all juniors and seniors at MHS. A grant was sponsored by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The program is a cooperative program involving schools, law enforcement, emergency medical responders, Madera Unified personnel, and the community.