Kennedy High School students played with blocks, threw darts and careered around their gymnasium in oversized pedal carts on April 24 and 25. So one could be forgiven for thinking they were horsing around. There was, however, a deadly serious message behind the fun and games.
Last Thursday and Friday, the Kennedy Students Against Destructive Decisions club sponsored its fourth annual Drunken and Distracted Driving Awareness Days in conjunction with the Bellmore-Merrick Community Parent Center.
Kennedy takes in students from south Bellmore and south Merrick. All students in grades nine to 12 took part in the event during their phys. ed. classes. Katie Speiss, the SADD adviser and a health educator who has taught at Kennedy for 10 years, said the event highlights what traffic safety experts call the “100 deadliest days” for teens –– those between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Speiss said that teens are involved in more fatal crashes during that time than any other period of the year.
“No one is invincible,” Speiss said, who added that SADD raised money this year for the nonprofit Community Parent Center.
The center’s executive director, Wendy Tepfer of Bellmore, said the Bellmore-Merrick Central District is “so supportive. We’re trying to change the culture of the community through the schools.”
At the DWI/distracted driving event, students learned about the dangers of drunken driving by wearing special goggles that mimicked DWI’s deleterious effect on sight and then taking part in a series of activities, such as driving pedal carts. Students drove around the center of the gym in a giant oval, unable to stay on course and often bumping into the bleachers. They also performed a series of manual dexterity exercises with the glasses on. Students struggled to pile blocks in stacks and hit a target with darts.
“A lot of times they think it’s silly,” said Craig Papach, a Kennedy phys. ed. teacher, “but the message is there. They’re having fun, but the message is there.”
Kennedy’s Grim Reaper Day preceded the event on April 23. One student dressed as the embodiment of death, walking from class to class, tapping two students in each room. When tapped, the students could not speak.