A sobering assembly

Officials, law enforcement hope Sober Prom discourages drunken driving

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The scene is familiar.

A group of high school kids is hanging out at someone's home, drinking alcohol. Police arrive, and the students scatter in all directions, some jumping into their cars to flee the trouble they know will come from a ticket for underage consumption of alcohol.

One of the kids is drunk, and his car weaves down a Steamboat Springs road as music blares and friends talk in the background.

In the blink of an eye the vehicle slams into a wall.

Stephanie Sanders, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, is dead.

Her father, Stephen, meets with the director of a local funeral home a day after his daughter's death.

"My wife was going to come, but she just can't handle this right now," Sanders says. Moments later, he stands before an empty casket, running his fingers along the polished wood, unsure of how he suddenly finds himself needing to arrange the funeral of one of his own.

The video ends, and the hushed audience of high school students watch as a group of their peers, including Sanders, walks to the auditorium stage.

Fortunately, the car accident and death were staged, at least for that day.

School officials and local law enforcement and emergency personnel hope presenting videos such as the one shown Thursday at the high school's annual Sober Prom assembly will discourage teens from driving drunk or getting into a car with someone who is intoxicated.

It's been a long time since a Steamboat Springs youth was killed in an alcohol-related crash, but as the video shows, things can change in an instant.

"The goal of this assembly is for you to realize -- for us to realize -- that this very thing can happen in our town of Steamboat Springs," Chris Teeters, a facilitator for the assembly, told the audience. "What choice will you make?"

The dozen or so students who took part in the making of the video also were part of a retreat Wednesday night, when they contemplated what their deaths would mean to them and those who loved them. The students wrote goodbye letters to family and friends; a couple of the letters were read aloud at the assembly.

"I'll forever ask myself why I got in that car," Sanders read. "I had plans for the rest of my life."

"All I had to do was run (from the party)," senior Kris Gayer read. "The cops would have found me a block away, and I would have gotten in trouble. But I'd still have my life."

High school teacher Lucianne Myhre, counselor Joan Allsberry and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue education coordinator Jacqui Campbell coordinated the Sober Prom presentation.

They encouraged parents to stay informed of their children's activities, to be open and accepting of their kids and to tell their children to call home and ask for a ride if they or their friends have been drinking.

The high school's prom is Saturday, and an alcohol-free after-prom party is at the school shortly after the conclusion of the dance. The party is free and lasts all night, but students must be sober to enter. Once they leave, they can't return.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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