The South-Western Career Academy hosted a simulated car-crash exercise April 28 to remind students of the dangers of distracted and drunk driving.

The accident scene was a simulation involving a mannequin, but the event provided real-life lessons for students in the school's communications and event management lab.

The exercise served as the students' senior capstone project.

"It gave them the chance to put into practice what they've been learning about over the last two years," said Jennifer Eschbach, communications lab instructor.

"They were responsible for all aspects of the event," Eschbach said. "From setting up the event and contacting the partner agencies that helped put it on, to dealing with the logistics of putting on a large event to publicizing it and assisting the media, it was all up to them."

Eschbach will evaluate their efforts and count it as 50 percent of their final-exam grade.

"We have some smaller-type events students in the lab organize, but they haven't had to do anything on this kind of scale before," Eschbach said.

The scenario of the exercise was a head-on crash involving a pickup truck and a car full of students coming home from prom, with a third vehicle involved.

The communications lab students partnered with the Jackson Township Fire Department, Grove City Division of Police, OhioHealth, MedFlight and AAA to present the exercise, which was held in the career academy's back parking lot.

"I think what they will be learning from this experience is all of the complexities of organizing and promoting a big event," Eschbach said.

"They had to work with and secure all of these outside agencies and coordinate how the event would work, including arranging for the students who would act as victims in the mock crash," she said. "They had to think of how they would address any contingency that might come up -- what if it rained? They had to have a plan for that."

A dozen seniors participated in the capstone project, Eschbach said.

Most of them will go on to study communications, public relations or event planning after graduation in June, she said.

After watching the scenario, career academy students visited several educational stations, which provided additional lessons.

"We had a distracted-driving simulator set up and students had the chance to put on goggles that impair their vision and try to go through a field-sobriety test," Eschbach said.

Other stations offered training in the use of fire extinguishers, information about the "jaws of life" and other life-saving tools and a presentation from an employment attorney about how points on their driving record or a drunk-driving charge can impact their job.

The day's activities ended with a speech by Bob Kent, a Grove City resident whose son died in 2004 when his vehicle was struck head-on by a drunk driver going the wrong way on Interstate 71.

Seniors Nicholas Rohr and Haleigh Sherman served as media contacts for the event.

"I was a little worried the day before (the event) when we were setting everything up," Rohr said. "It was a big relief when everything seemed to go smoothly. It turned out really well."

"It was a little more stressful then I thought it would be," Sherman said. "The biggest thing was making sure I got everybody to where they need to go."

Sherman said she plans to pursue a career as a wedding planner.

The capstone project "was a real eye-opener," she said.

"I didn't really realize all of the things that are involved in planning an event," she said.

Rohr's plan is to go into marketing and public relations.

"It's something I've been interested in since I was a kid," he said. "I can't really say why -- I've just always been interested in it."

The capstone project was more than a class assignment, Rohr said.

"The message about the dangers of drunk driving and texting is really important for students to hear, especially with prom and graduation parties coming up," he said. "It's something that students should know and think about."

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