Press release from Red Bank Regional High School
Every year, Red Bank Regional High School sends off its seniors to have a wonderful, safe time at the prom. Just prior to that, they try in the most elaborate ways to discourage bad choices of drinking and distracted driving in what is known as the Project Prom Program.
On May 27, a mock crash was conducted on the school’s front campus, with the help of the sending towns’ fire, police and emergency medical services. The Little Silver and Shrewsbury Fire Departments employed their “jaws of life” equipment to extricate the mock student victims from their potential death-trap automobile wrecks. The New Jersey State Police South Star helicopter crew landed at RBR and simulated a medi-vac flight of one victim to the nearest trauma center, while another went to the neighborhood hospital. A hearse from John Day’s Funeral Home took away one certain fatality.
Project Prom was created 11 years ago by Little Silver Police Officer Peter Gibson, who subsequently served as RBR’s first School Resource Officer (SRO). The present SRO, Robert Chenoweth, coordinates the program at RBR under Officer Gibson’s community leadership.
Participating in RBR’s Project Prom activities this year were (left to right): Sgt. Frank Taddeo, Union Beach; Ptl. Pete Gibson, Little Silver; Ptl. Frank Salerno, Little Silver; RBR School Resource Officer Robert Chenoweth, Little Silver; Academy of Law and Public Safety student intern Alexus Torres, Long Branch; Ptl. Pete Giblin, Little Silver; Ptl. Micheal Tardio, Bradley Beach; Ptl. James VanEtten, Neptune City; Ptl. Chris Tuberion, Union Beach.
RBR’s students and active EMS volunteers also participated in the event, including Matthew Suszka, Little Silver (Little Silver EMS, Shrewsbury and Little Silver Fire Depts.); Nicole Ortiz, Shrewsbury, (Little Silver EMS); Sam Gregg, Little Silver (Little Silver Fire Dept.); Joe Calao, Shrewsbury (Shrewsbury and Little Silver Fire Depts. and Shrewsbury EMS). This year’s student actors included Jenna Smith of Shrewsbury, Ricky Wild of Belmar, Lauren Jones of Shrewsbury, and Elijah Gray of Red Bank. The vehicles used in the mock crash were courtesy of Red Bank Recycling.
After the mock crash scene and medi-vac landing, the seniors were then assembled in the auditorium for an assembly highlighting the horrific aftermath of an automobile crash. Jersey Shore Trauma Nurse Molly Berkowitz related what happens to the victims once they reach her workplace in all its frightening details. Monmouth County Defense Attorney Mitch Ansell, who has represented numerous DWI clients, explained the strict laws in New Jersey for underage drinking, and, the consequences that follow a drunk-driver for the rest of their life, including jail time.
Gabe Hurley of Without Limits LLC represented the innocent victims forced to live with the consequences of an irresponsible driver’s actions. Blinded by a drunk driver, Mr. Hurley became a motivational speaker, whose message resonated strongly with RBR students like senior Mackenzie Welsh of Little Silver, who commented that “Hearing the aftermath of a crash from someone’s perspective really drove it home for me. He needed extensive surgery to basically reconstruct his face. He showed his CT scan. He talked about his life before and now where he needs help with his everyday life.”
The program continued the following week in and outside the school’s field house, where seniors visited five activity stations manned by a group of police officers from Little Silver as well as Shrewsbury, Union Beach, Bradley Beach and Neptune City. All send students to the RBR’s four-year academies.
Students were asked to put a child’s puzzle together while wearing fatal-vision goggles and distracting headphones, which simulate substance-induced impairment. Officers also had the students also don the goggles while performing standard sobriety exercises like walking a straight line, turning, and bending to pick up dropped keys while wearing those same goggles.
Officer Pete Gibson sat with his computer individually calculating just how much alcohol would designate each student legally drunk according to their weight and height and how long it will remain in their body. “I show them the burnout rate,” he states. “I show them that alcohol stays in their system 12- 24 hours after they take it. Basically one beer or a couple of drinks and you are done.”
This year, a new station was added thanks to the hard work and talent of the RBR TV production students in Mr. Carl Grillo’s Interactive Media class. RBR wrestler Tom Hinz of Allenhurst, who was among the seniors utilizing the simulator with the fatal vision goggles. thought he was doing a good job driving until someone crashed into him, because all his driving was on the wrong side of the road. Last year, the students won a very expensive driving simulator through a state-wide contest sponsored by the by the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey (BIANJ) and UGotBrains.com. Amazingly, this year they won the same contest and another driving simulator, which they decided to pay forward and donate to the runner-up, Summit High School.
The highlight for the past eleven years of Project Prom is always the golf cart obstacle course, outfitted with a plethora of cones and of course, those fatal vision goggles. Guadalupe Rodriguez of Red Bank, wiped out quite a few as she struggled to get through the course. Her remarks? “I’m taking the Uber!”