Early High School turned its Shattered Dreams multiple-day, anti-intoxicated and distracted driving campaign into a regional event, with hundreds of students from Early, Zephyr, Blanket and Premier High School attending.

Friday morning students will wrap up the event, held every three years, with an assembly featuring participating students, parents, law enforcement and emergency service personnel analyzing aftermath and the decisions leading to a fictitious DUI fatality outside Longhorn Stadium at EHS Thursday morning.

“I had kids come back years later to tell me this made them think the next time they were somewhere where they think there is drinking taking part,” said Early Police Department Chief David Mercer, who started the program during his first year as chief in 2008. “It left an impact on them. If we’re reaching somebody, then we’re doing our job because we made somebody think about it.”

Thursday morning students gathered in the dew soaked parking lot near outside the football stadium to observe the carnage of broken class, bent metal and faux blood splattered bodies from the fictitious accident. Mercer said with each year’s iteration, he and the other organizers of the event work to make it more relevant to each generation of students.

“We’ve incorporated texting and driving and distracted driving into it,” Mercer said. “It’s very important. They see what happens at an accident scene. We set it up very realistic. The people, the victims, the drivers are all made up as if they’re really injured. They will see the accident scene, how we treat a drunk driver, how we fly somebody out and we wrap it up the next day with a video program.”

According to a press release issued by the EPD, the drama continues unfolding as an individual dressed as the Grim Reaper stalks the halls selecting students to reflect a study by the Texas Department of Transportation, alleging drunk-driving in Texas results in a death or injury every 20 minutes on average. Once selected, the students will have their faces painted white and wear black shirts to symbolize their demise then return to class, where they are instructed not to speak.

“It’s so surreal to be involved in it,” said EHS senior Asa Welker, who depicted one of the students killed in the accident Thursday. “… It’s worth it. I have never been in an alcohol situation, but I know people who have and I have had friends that have been killed so it’s an emotional moment for me and I want to do my best at portraying the true effects of it.”

Senior Ryan Hill portrayed the offending intoxicated driver. While EMS units transported Welker to a funeral home in a body bag, Hill received a trip to the jail. Considering Hill plans to go into law enforcement, he hopes to learn as much as he can from the experience.

“This is a very serious moment. Thousands of people die each year due to drinking and driving,” Hill said. “… It’s a big deal and I am just glad to be a part of this. I get to be the drunk driver and I want to be a cop so I get to experience the part that I will get to do, eventually.”

Considering the EHS prom is set for March 24, Early ISD Chief Academic Officer Reca Godfrey said Shattered Dreams is a perfectly timed event reminding students of the dangers of drinking and driving.

“The timing was set on purpose because of prom,” Godfrey said. “I know from past experience, when we do this, it has a huge effect on these kids. I can’t help but think, for at least one of them, it’s going to make a huge difference on prom night.”