The air at Leesville was thick with mixed emotions last Thursday morning, even from the moment students arrived at school. Parked near the entrance of the student parking lot was a wrecked car with a speed limit sign labeled ‘85: Bloody Consequences.’ The car was courtesy of the program that Leesville has hosted for at least the last 5 years, VIP for a VIP.
The program’s name stands for Vehicle Injury Prevention for a Very Important Person and was founded by two off-duty firefighters, Steve Zimmerman and Larry Cockman in 1998. According to their website, the program hasn’t changed much since that time. It was developed with the purpose to “educate teens by bringing the reality of what they often saw to the doorstep of high schools in the area.”
The program extended over both second and fourth period and included two different parts, one inside the auditorium and one in the student parking lot. The goal was to realistically demonstrate what can happen in just a matter of seconds if drivers lose their focus for even a moment.
While some students didn’t appear to be outwardly affected, many couldn’t hold back tears during the day. Whispers of conflicted feelings swirled all day, seniors were clearly impacted. Even Dr. Mutillo commented that he saw an improvement with the amount of students texting while leaving the parking lot during lunch.
For others who have dealt with more personal tragedy involving car accidents, the days’ events will have a deeper effect.
Matthew Price, assistant principal, hopes so. When asked via email how the program has impacted students, Mr. Price replied, “As with most preventative programs, it is hard to measure the success of the VIP program. From anecdotes as I have spoken with students they shared feelings ranging from sadness at the message that was being delivered, to guilt for mistakes that they knew they had made while driving. Some students relate the message to similar events that they have encountered in their lives. The program certainly reaches to the “core” of the students, and it is this deep emotion that we hope leads to a lasting impact on the decisions that are made. I can only hope that students who have experienced the program have subsequently made some choices that they wouldn’t have prior to experiencing VIP. Again, it’s hard to come up with a metric for how much it has prevented.”
While Mr. Price also shared the school had no immediate plans of extending the program to underclassmen, the program will hopefully affect the decisions of more than just the senior class. Even one positive choice made on the road could help save the lives of many.