Platte County students get up close and personal with tragedy

Left photo: Wheatland High School students Colter Kennedy (left) and Adrianna Johnson (right)were actors in the mock crash scene set up by local law enforcement officers. Right photo: Wyoming Life Flight helicopter participated in the mock crash that was presented to Platte County students Sept. 30 at Wheatland High School. The helicopter was dispatched from Casper to be a part of the event.

WHEATLAND – For the third year in a row, Wheatland High School has hosted what used to be called “Freshman Impact” but now is, “Platte County Envision” which is a daylong series of teachings, demonstrations and lectures dealing with challenges that face young people.
With each challenge comes a choice.
Cedric Philo, activites director of Wheatland High School was invited to a program at Newcastle High School a few years back.
“The program was patterned after what was called ‘Impact’ in South Dakota,” Philo said. “After I attended the invitation to see the program at Newcastle High School, I knew it was something we needed here in our county.”
Philo, local Project S.A.F.E. director Samantha Twiford and Wyoming State Trooper Jamie Wingard put their heads together and teamed up to put together a program that was packed with substance, presented challenges that teens are facing in an ever-changing world and offered them not only glimpses into the tragedy of poor choices, but also provided solutions and options for each challenge that would reach out to them in their teenage years.
The Platte County Envision was coordinated by several local law enforcement agencies as well as emergency responders, high school faculty and administrators and community members. It was the third year of the program with more added each year.
“It’s complex to coordinate it all,” Wingard said. “It is not rehearsed and it’s done in real time. The only thing that is not true to form is that we don’t involve the actual dispatchers for the mock crash. We handle that ourselves.”
From the time the students arrive at 8 a.m., the flurry of activity begins. The planning for the day begins months in advance and all agencies coordinate with the school and with each other to bring about an insightful and lifechanging day.
It is not an activity that includes the entire school, but just mainly for the incoming freshmen. Philo said that with a smaller group there would be a more intimate one-on-one interaction with the students and instead of a large group, it would be a group that not only has grown up together, but feels exclusive in the learning process.
Also, the challenges brought forth are challenges that high school students will sooner than later be confronted with, and the feeling is an urgency to reach these students as they are transitioning to high school.
The morning sessions included live demonstrations, such as local K-9 celebrity, “Officer Ace” the police dog and his handler Dalton Minsaas. K-9 Ace was brought to a car where he was sniffing for drugs. There were also pedal carts that the students could drive while wearing impairment goggles to see if they could maneuver the course without hitting the traffic cones.  
Seminars included a teaching from a suicide facilitator and suicide survivor Rhianna Brand from Cheyenne who provided education on options and explanations for some of the feelings that adolescents can have. There were also teachings on social media, bullying, how court cases dealing with drunken driving are handled and information on the penalties for poor choices.
The mock crash scene was set up at the corner of 13th and Mason Streets with bleachers for the students to witness everything that happens after a fatal crash. One student actor was tested for substance abuse and drunk driving (Quinn Lawrence),  two other students (Gabe Plante and Grace Hanni) in the crash and not seriously injured were interviewed by law enforcement officers. One student actor was critically injured and lying on the street (Colter Kennedy). Another was lying on the street and covered with a sheet deeming her deceased (Adrianna Johnson).
Those agencies involved in the mock crash scene were Wyoming State Troopers, Wheatland Police, Officers from the Platte County Sheriff’s department, local ambulance and EMTs, Wyoming Life Flight helicopter and personnel, the local fire and rescue crew, the Wheatland Coroner, Joey Burke from SADD and school administration and faculty.
After the crash was cleared, students paraded back to the school auditorium as two students played “Taps” on trumpets. Students then passed by a coffin that was outside the auditorium. It had a mirror where the body was supposed to be and students were encouraged to look at themselves in the mirror.
They took the crisis from the beginning to the end and left nothing to the imagination. Emotions from the onlookers told the story of the reality of what they were watching and Envision was all it was meant to be. Life changing.


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