What’s Underway in SGA: Spring project in review


Photos courtesy Christopher Yeh and Vivek Majumdar

Students gather in front of school the afternoon of Mar. 17 to view a simulated drunk driving crash coordinated by the SGA. Working with the Montgomery County Fire Department and Every 15 Minutes program, the goal of the simulation was to raise awareness of the frequency and severity of distracted driving incidents.

After months of preparation and anticipation, the SGA’s quadrennial spring project has finally come to a close. Though aspects of it drew mixed emotions from students, such as the Every 50 Minutes “living dead” demonstration, the project successfully raised awareness for the dangers of distracted driving and positively impacted students.

The project began Monday with a collection of posters put up in the Commons detailing different statistics about distracted driving crashes and fatalities, as well as a collection of “last texts” sent by people before losing their lives in car accidents. The posters, made by the SGA Shock and Awe committee, were intended to express to students just how common distracted driving incidents are.

The process for creating displays involved brainstorming what would best grab students’ attention, then finding the right statistics to display. “The process for the displays was challenging. We all worked together to come up with creative ways to portray the effects of drunk and distracted driving. Especially in our community, distracted and drunk driving is extremely prevalent, so it was easy to find statistics that would relate to teenage drivers,” sophomore and SGA member Tati Pacheco said.

Tuesday saw more statistics in the Commons about distracted driving, in addition to a Patriots Drive Smart presentation by the SGA in English classes. The presentation brought attention to common distractions within the car, as well as safe practices behind the wheel and as a passenger. 

The Shock and Awe committee collected shoes for a display on Wednesday, intended to visualize the number of drunk driving fatalities that occurred in 2021. However, the display seemed to confuse certain students, as mentioned on the Wootton Affirmations Instagram account.

Pacheco was surprised that the display confused students, even though an accompanying sign was mounted to provide context. “I hope people took the information we shared to heart and remember when they are driving,” Pacheco said.

The most highly anticipated day of the week within the SGA was Thursday, which featured a “living dead” demonstration. Every 50 minutes, predetermined students were temporarily removed from their classes to be made up to resemble a person killed in a drunk driving incident; these students could not speak to others for the rest of the day, so as to further the impact of the demonstration. This was accompanied by an obituary for each student announced over the intercom.

Every 50 minutes, a person is killed in the US in a drunk driving incident. This demonstration was intended to show students the emotional impact drunk driving has on the friends and loved ones of those killed. 

Unfortunately, the startle caused by the first announcement led Principal Kimberly Boldon to clarify that the obituaries were not real. “While I think the announcement that simulated the death of Lizzy Jack due to an accident was intended to show the severity of drunk driving, because it was very believable, I think it may have caused significant emotional distress on some students,” senior and class Treasurer Jasmine Gong said.

Then on, the “every 50 minutes” statistic was read over the intercom in place of the planned obituaries. “After first period, the administrative team and the SGA talked and decided to not announce the obituaries to the entire school,” senior and SGA Co-President Maya Chelar said. “Before the Spring Project week commenced though, we dedicated a lot of our time talking to admin and running our proposed plan by them. This year, the actual foundation of Spring Project was altered a lot due to several external circumstances, so we spent more time talking and running everything by admin than we usually would.” 

However, the “living dead” demonstration was not all the SGA had planned for Thursday. Working together with the Every 15 Minutes program and the Montgomery County Fire Department, the SGA coordinated a simulated drunk driving crash in front of the school for students to view.

A damaged car, donated to the SGA by a local junkyard, was set up to appear as if a drunk student driving by the school had hit another student and teacher. The fire and police departments arrived with trucks and cars to transport the people “injured” in the crash to safety and arrest the “drunk” student.

Despite the setback with the “living dead” demonstration, the simulated crash went as the SGA had hoped. Whether students believed the crash to be real or not, it successfully brought the severity of distracted driving to the forefront of students’ attention. “Reading the last texts and newspaper articles that were written as if the students or staff had died were very sobering, and I hope it encouraged other Wootton students to understand the severity of driving under the influence,” Gong said.

With a new sponsor and a majority of its members lacking prior experience planning a spring project, preparing this year’s demonstrations and displays was a challenge. “Even though it was stressful, I think that the outcome was amazing. I had a lot of individuals come up to me or other members of the SGA and express how much they were affected and educated by the demonstration we put on,” Chelar said. “It was especially great because the students in the skit didn’t rehearse the crash at all before Thursday, so all of our emotion and behavior was not rehearsed at all.”

The spring project concluded in a webinar with Tyson Dever, a victim of a distracted driving incident that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

The ultimate goal of the SGA’s spring projects is to bring important topics to students’ attention, positively impacting them in a way that will improve their lives for years to come. Even if only one student was made a safer driver by the project, it was a success. “I thought the SGA project was a very prevalent topic, especially for kids our age, so I’m very glad that we addressed it,” Gong said.