An Impactful Day

Freshmen students from around the region participate in real life scenerios

More than 100 students from seven high schools around the region got a jolt of what reality can be like if you make destructive decisions.

Pioneer Editor

Bowman County hosted students from Grant County, Hettinger, Mott-Regent, New England, Scranton, and Baker, Mont., on Wednesday, Sept. 13 for Freshman Impact, a day-long learning exercise developed and implemented by a group called C.O.R.E. (Community Organized Resources in Educating youth) out of Box Elder, S.D. This was the first time ever a North Dakota school had offered the Freshman Impact program.

•Background on Freshman Impact

Freshmen Impact was developed by Rick McPherson, the current Executive Director of C.O.R.E.

“We deal with strictly risk-taking behaviors of teenagers,” he said. “And we focus on the freshmen high school students.”

In 2006 McPherson and a friend, a South Dakota State Trooper, presented it to the community of Wall, S.D. From there it grew, and now it is in four states and he hopes to bring it to another two in 2018.

“It’s just blossomed from there,” he said. “We had no clue it would be this way today, we’d have laughed at you in 2006.”

The program has a gained a tremendous reputation due to the life-like experience it gives the students.

During the day-long event, the freshman students are exposed to multiple learning stations that includes drug use, social media, life consequences, fatal goggles, seat belt wars, and Fire/EMS demonstration.

But the highlight of the day is the afternoon, when the students are sat in the gymnasium and are swept through a scenario that involves drunk driving, and the consequences those types of choices can have.

A casket was brought in for the mock accident to give students a real look at what attending the funeral of a peer would be like.

•Freshman Impact in Bowman County

Following the early learning stations, the students were brought back into the gymnasium and the scenario played out. Playing over the loudspeaker, students heard a real 911 call recorded by North Dakota State Radio. From there, the students were guided outside where they were approached a vicious mock-car accident. Five upperclassmen were a part of the accident scene that included three injuries, an arrest, and one fatality.

But what brought the scene closer to reality was the fact that multiple healthcare providers were called to the accident in what ended up being a certifiable county-wide drill.

“The EOC was there so this counts as a county-wide drill, because they did not know what they are responding to, because we had everyone participate,” said Chris Peterson, who was invited to be the community coordinator of the event by Bowman County Schools.

Called to the scene were law enforcement, the ambulance service, and a life-flight helicopter from South Dakota that took one of the victims from the scene.

“Even as an adult, it was hard to see those kids in that accident,” Peterson said.

An even more eye-opening experience for Peterson was the fact that her son, Tristen, acted as the victim that was fatally injured during the car accident.

The experience didn’t end for the students on the scene of the accident. When they were brought back into the gym they came upon a funeral scene. With a casket and an obituary written for Tristen. The story also said that he had just entered the military service and taps were played as students looked at the casket with his football jersey and helmet resting on top.

The program featured a life-like court criminal court case the arrested individual faced after the accident. Two lawyers and a judge volunteered their time to portray their real-life professions to the students.

Peterson said that students were visibly moved by the whole production, some faces dripping with tears. She’s been hammered by communication from people wanting to show their appreciation for hosting the program.

“I’ve been inundated with text and emails, even from some of the kids, thanking me for putting this on…,” she said.

Rescue workers extract the victims of the mock accident.

•Working With C.O.R.E.

Peterson was very complimentary of how well the program was laid out for her to setup in Bowman. It was a dynamic template, where Peterson just had to fill the roles of the different parts of the production.

“I just needed to plug the people in,” she said. “I would not have come up with all that, and had it that thorough and that complete and that smooth, that we could handle 100 students.”

She had spent three days at a training course before the day of the actual event.

McPherson was similarly complimentary of working with Bowman County.

“I can say in working with the communities, there was an air of friendliness there of a team spirit that I have not seen at all in anywhere like that,” he said. “I think Bowman, for the first time [host], in any area, Bowman was probably the best that I’ve ever seen and ever worked with.”

McPherson said that the formula they had come up with in 2006 for the presentation has remained relatively untouched in the last 11 years. But did add that it was designed to be adjusted to focus on a specific issue, if a particular school wanted to put extra emphasis on something like cyberbullying or sexting.

“That’s the beauty of the program, we have created a framework that we can tweak it to the needs of each community,” McPherson said.

Peterson said it was also a great opportunity for the students to get an inside view on the different professions of law enforcement and healthcare providers

“You get one-on-one [attention],” she said. “Each session has to be interactive, so the kids stay engaged.”

She called the event a win-win, because the students got to see the tragedy a destructive decision can bring, while also allowing medical professionals and law enforcement to show students some of the details of their jobs.

Peterson said they plan to host the event again next year, with a tentative date of Sept. 12.

The crowd watches as the rescue of a mock accident unfolds. (Photos by Chris Peterson/For The Pioneer)

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