WHEATLAND – Freshman Impact came to town last week for the second year in a row hoping to bring a better understanding of how poor actions can have lasting consequences.
Freshman from several area schools were bused in for the event including Torrington, Yoder and all of Platte County. The program is aimed towards freshman because most of them don’t have driver’s licenses yet, are younger and generally more open to the message than upperclassmen.
The program’s mission is to save teen lives through interactive, preventive education. The one-day event utilizes local emergency responders and volunteers to teach sessions in the morning, a speaker talking about personal experiences and in the afternoon, features a skit with local teens engaging in questionable behavior culminating in an accident with realistic injuries, funeral and the person responsible is sentenced in a mock trial. As of now, it is only presented at schools in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas.
The morning sessions included speakers discussing topics on internet safety, healthy relationships, drug prevention, fire and medical safety. The hands-on sessions included Fatal Vision and Battle of the Belts. Fatal Vision saw the teens driving ATVs between cones with goggles that simulate what it might be like to try and see while intoxicated. Each driver had a chaperone with them to ensure safety. Battle of the Belts was a race where teams of four had to run to a vehicle, buckle up, unbuckle and run to a different seat progressing through each seat in the car. The winning team for each round received Freshman Impact hooded sweatshirts and with the cold, drizzly weather of the day, were a big hit.
“It’s a fun experience,” said Wheatland freshman Colten Halvorsen. “Several things I had heard about but didn’t really understand were explained better.”
He also mentioned that during the seatbelt race it was easy to tell who buckled up regularly and those who didn’t.
Last year the skit and accident were focused around driving while high on drugs. This year’s topic was texting and driving. In the accident caused by the youth (acted by Wheatland’s Anna Cecil), three teens were injured and one was killed. She was sentenced to 8 to 10 years in prison for aggravated vehicular homicide. The “courtroom” held in the Wheatland Middle School gym was intense as Cecil’s plea case was heard in front of an actual judge and professional attorneys. The victim’s mother was present and spoke about her daughter and how none of her dreams can come true now and how her sisters will be affected in the coming years. Cecil had silent tears running down her cheek as Judge Scott Cole explained the process, sentencing and consequences of her actions.
“A fraction of a second can impact your live and others,” said Cole. “You are the future. Anything you say or do follows you the rest of your life.”
After the proceedings and Cecil was led away in a prison uniform and cuffs, Cole addressed the group. Explaining that he has seen these sorts of cases in his courtroom often. He went on to explain his, “Five ‘ps’ of life.” “Prior planning prevents poor performance. You are not bulletproof or invincible.”
Cole thinks the program is very beneficial. The more information about what to do and not to do will help our young people to think for themselves and not follow peer pressure. “The more we can educate them, the better off they are and the better their future will be.”
Counselors from Specialty Counseling were present if any student felt “triggered,” or needed to talk about something that upset them during the program.
The number of volunteers and emergency responders coming together to have this program was impressive. Just a few were Project Safe, the Wheatland Police Department, Platte County Sheriff and the Wheatland Volunteer Fire Department. All these individuals gave their time and expertise in the hopes of making a difference in the future decisions of our children. More information may be found at www.freshmanimpact.com.