RBR’s Many Communities Collaborate to Keep Kids Save for Prom Season
Every year, Red Bank Regional High School (RBR) sends off its seniors to have a wonderful, safe time at the prom. Just prior to their well wishes, however, they try, in the most elaborate ways, to discourage bad choices of drinking and distracted driving in what is known as the Project Prom Program. This year was no exception. On May 27th, a mock crash was conducted on the school’s front campus with the help of the sending towns’ fire, police and emergency medical services. The Little Silver and Shrewsbury Fire Departments employed their “jaws of life” equipment to extricate the mock student victims from their potential death-trap automobile wrecks. The New Jersey State Police South Star helicopter crew landed at RBR and simulated a medi-vac flight of one victim to the nearest trauma center while another went to the neighborhood hospital. A hearse from John Day’s Funeral Home took away one certain fatality. Project Prom was created 11 years ago by Little Silver Police Officer Peter Gibson who subsequently served as RBR’s first School Resource Officer (SRO). The present SRO, Robert Chenoweth, coordinates the program at RBR under Officer Gibson’s community leadership.
RBR’s students and active EMS volunteers also participated in the event. They were: Matthew Suszka, Little Silver, (Little Silver EMS, Shrewsbury and Little Silver Fire Departments); Nicole Ortiz, Shrewsbury, (Little Silver EMS); Sam Gregg, Little Silver, (Little Silver Fire Department); Joe Calao, Shrewsbury, (Shrewsbury and Little Silver Fire Departments and Shrewsbury EMS). This year’s student actors included Jenna Smith, Shrewsbury, Ricky Wild, Belmar, Lauren Jones, Shrewsbury, and Elijah Gray, Red Bank. The vehicles used in the mock crash were courtesy of Red Bank Recycling.
After the mock crash scene and medi-vac landing, the seniors were then assembled in the auditorium for an assembly highlighting the horrific aftermath of an automobile crash. Jersey Shore Trauma Nurse Molly Berkowitz, related what happens to the victims once they reach her workplace in all its frightening details. Monmouth County Defense Attorney, Mitch Ansell, who has represented numerous DWI clients, explained the strict laws in New Jersey for underage drinking, and, the consequences that follow a drunk-driver for the rest of their life, including jail time. Gabe Hurley, of Without Limits, LLC, represented the innocent victims forced to live with the consequences of an irresponsible driver’s actions. Blinded by a drunk driver, Mr. Hurley became a motivational speaker whose message resonated strongly with the RBR student audience.
RBR senior Mackenzie Welsh of Little Silver comments, “Hearing the aftermath of a crash from someone’s perspective really drove it home for me. He needed extensive surgery to basically reconstruct his face. He showed his CT scan. He talked about his life before and now where he needs help with his everyday life. He is now blind because of a drunk teenage driver.”
The program continued the following week in and outside the school’s field house, where seniors visited five activity stations manned by a group of police officers from Little Silver as well as Shrewsbury, Union Beach, Bradley Beach and Neptune City. All send students to the RBR’s four-year academies.
Students were asked to put a child’s puzzle together while wearing fatal- vision (distracting) goggles (which simulate substance-induced impairment). Headphones spouting people voices were added to the exercise simulating further distractions to the task.
Hannah Sauer, Little Silver, eventually completed the simple puzzle with much time and consideration. She stated, “It was weird and hard to get the pieces right. It just freaks me out to think that anyone could get into a car and drive like that.”
Officers’ had the students also don the goggles while performing the standard sobriety exercises, like walking a straight line, turning, and bending to pick up dropped keys while wearing those same goggles.
Jazmin Graham of Lake Como staggered through the exercise and commented, “You know where the line is. Then you put on the goggles and it moves way over there.”
Officer Pete Gibson sat with his computer individually calculating just how much alcohol would designate each student legally drunk according to their weight and height and how long it will remain in their body. “I show them the burnout rate,” he states. “I show them that alcohol stays in their system 12- 24 hours after they take it. Basically one beer or a couple of drinks and you are done.”
This year, a new station was added thanks to the hard work and talent of the RBR TV production students in Mr. Carl Grillo’s Interactive Media class. Last year, they won a very expensive driving simulator through a state-wide contest sponsored by the by the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey (BIANJ) and UGotBrains.com. Amazingly, this year, they won the same contest and another driving simulator which they decided to pay forward and donate to the runner-up, Summit High School.
RBR’s seniors utilized the simulator with the fatal vision goggles. RBR wrestler Tom Hinz of Allenhurst, thought he was doing a good job driving until someone crashed into him, because all his driving was on the wrong side of the road. He remarked, “At first, I thought it was a normal computer simulation like the computer games I play, but when you put on those goggles—it feels really real. He adds, “I would never do that, I would just stay put, stay over where I am or take a train home.”
The highlight for the past eleven years of Project Prom is always the golf cart obstacle course, outfitted with a plethora of cones and of course, those fatal vision goggles. Guadalupe Rodriguez of Red Bank, wiped out quite a few as she struggled to get through the course. Her remarks, “I’m taking the Uber!”