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Folsom's Vista del Lago High School students get sobering look at DUI-related deaths

By: Eyragon Eidam, Telegraph Correspondent
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FOLSOM, CA - Students at Vista del Lago High School in Folsom stared “death” in the face as school officials teamed up with local first responders to bring them the Every 15 Minutes program, a startling look at the consequences of drinking and driving.

After witnessing a very realistic, staged accident and emergency medical response involving their peers on April 10, students gathered Thursday for an assembly created to put a stop to the preventable tragedies caused by drunk driving.

The mood in the large gymnasium was somber as speakers urged students to be smarter than the students depicted in a short video of the drinking and partying that preceded the staged accident a day earlier.

Gayle Losch, the event organizer and a teacher at the school, let the emotional youngsters know where the priorities of staff and those involved with the production stood.

“If we can save one of you when you leave here today, we have done our jobs,” said Losch.

Logan Dearborn, one of the student actors, got an early taste of mortality as an innocent victim of the recklessness of his classmates.

Dearborn delivered a stark, yet powerful, account of his experience as one of the “living dead” in the production.

“I got zipped up in a body bag and thrown in the back of a van,” said Dearborn.

The exchanges of regrets and missed opportunities between the “living dead” participants of production and their families brought tears to onlookers, but a real-life survivor also had a story to share.

Wendy Reynolds, a mother, practicing attorney and former judge, shared her true story of the childhood loss of her parents and younger sister to an intoxicated motorist.

“My entire family was killed by somebody who really did make that choice to drink and drive,” Reynolds warned the silent audience. “And now, I am standing before you pleading with you, pleading with the adults, with the teachers, with you guys, please do not drive after using any drugs or any alcohol.”

Cristina Mendonsa, local anchorperson and mother of a sophomore at the high school, was the master of ceremonies for the event and mentioned how important it is for her to do what she can to prevent these types of tragedies.

Mendonsa also acknowledged her own experiences with teen fatalities involving alcohol or drugs while reporting for News 10.

“It’s difficult to read the stories,” said Mendonsa. “Every 15 Minutes really brings the story home.”

Principal John Dixon had no doubts that the biennial production would have a lasting impact on the students at Vista del Lago.

“If you were in there, you could see the impact,” said Dixon. “It will stick with the kids for a while.”