Catalina Coppelli didn’t like how it felt.
“It was off. I was walking the line ... it was hard to find your foot and put it on the line,” the sixth-grader said of wearing goggles that imitated the vision a person has after drinking.
Catalina and her classmates were participating at one of the many stations set up as part of Rim Country Middle School’s (RCMS) H.E.R.O. assemblies.
“H.E.R.O. stands for Helping Everyone Respect Others,” said RCMS vice-principal Yvette Harpe.
Harpe planned the day to educate the students about drunk driving, texting while driving, the importance of wearing a seat belt, drug use and accepting others despite their disability.
Catalina was at one of the four stations set up on the field behind the RCMS gym designed to educate students about the various issues with driving. The station she participated in had students attempt to walk straight on a white line wearing the “drunk goggles.”
She didn’t like how it felt to look through the eyes of a drunk person. She said she hopes to never get drunk.
Hopefully, this H.E.R.O. assembly will help Catalina battle the odds.
According to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.), one-third of all eighth-graders will drink alcohol. Car crashes remain the leading cause of teenage death and alcohol figures in one-third of all teen driving accidents.
Harpe hopes this H.E.R.O. activity will bring awareness to RCMS students. So do the high school students who helped for the day.
At each station on the field, two high school students from either Payson High School’s student government or Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) manned a station.
Rachel Creighton, the senior class secretary, worked at a station where kids wore drunk goggles then tossed a ball encased in Velcro at a poster entitled, Wreck Your Life! The purpose of the exercise was to get the kids to land on the Get Home Safe box. Surrounding the Get Home Safe box were boxes that had messages such as Wreck! Kill Yourself, and Wreck! Paralyze Yourself!
Creighton explained that the students had five chances to get home, but most didn’t make it. Surprisingly, that didn’t stop them.
“They keep getting back in line to try again,” said Creighton.
She admitted this was similar to what kids do in real life, get in the car and try to drive drunk anyway because maybe this time they’ll get away with it. Creighton hopes the H.E.R.O. assembly changes their mind.
M.A.D.D. statistics report that every 50 minutes someone dies in a drunk driving accident and every minute one person is injured from an alcohol-related crash. Teen alcohol use kills about 6,000 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined.
Harpe also had an assembly on illegal drugs.
In the RCMS gym, each grade level heard a presentation from detectives Tony McDaniel and Terry Phillips on the consequences of illegal drug use.
They showed a gruesome 10-year progression of photos of a woman who used methamphetamines. She went from a beautiful young lady looking no older than 25 (she was 30 at the time of the photo) to looking 80 — in just 10 years.
As the photos progressed, the students gasped.
“I can see that upsets you,” said McDaniel. “It’s the choices you make today that affect the outcome of your life.”
Harpe has put together day-long assemblies like this H.E.R.O. program for years. This year, however, besides the information on alcohol and drugs, Harpe added a section run by PHS senior Tyler McMinimy on epilepsy. She hopes to create an environment of tolerance at RCMS.
RCMS principal Will Dunman felt she had succeeded.
“She’s done a great job with the day,” he said.