Dreams shattered: Program shows Hays CISD students consequences of drunk driving

Amid the carnage of two severely wrecked vehicles is Lehman High student Evey Ramirez, whose limp body lies on the asphalt with her eye gauged out from the collision.

Located in the same vehicle is Lehman High senior Hannah Starnez’s lifeless body. It doesn’t take long for emergency personnel to rush Starnez into a helicopter for transport to a hospital.

First responders transport Lehman High senior Hannah Starnez on a gurney during the March 1 Shattered Dreams program. The program is a reenactment of a fatal drunk driving accident involving first responders and student volunteers. (Photo by Exsar Arguello)

In the other vehicle, Lehman High senior Belicia Espinoza sits unconscious in the passenger seat with blood streaming down her face and into a pool on her body. The driver of that vehicle, Lehman High student Kimberley Gutierrez, is injured, but conscious.

By the time Gutierrez comes to terms with what happened, Kyle Police has arrived at the scene. After a failed sobriety test, Gutierrez is placed into handcuffs and is transported to jail.

As the grisly scene unfolded, over 200 Lehman High students watched in awe as their peers reenacted the price paid from the actions of one person’s bad decision.

All of it was part of Shattered Dreams, a program that reenacts a fatal drunk driving accident, which was held March 1 in the Lehman High parking lot.

Shattered Dreams was first brought to Hays CISD schools in 2001 and has since been a long lasting city initiative to keep students safe during the upcoming Spring and Summer holidays.

The project involves the Kyle Police and Fire Departments, EMS, Seton Hays, and a number of student volunteers and organizations that help bring to life a real time vehicular drunk driving accident. Students who took part in the reenactment were selected to participate. Applicants had to submit an essay highlighting why they wanted to be involved with the event.

For Starnez and Espinoza, the opportunity to act in this morbid scene had a more personal meaning. Both have lost family members to drunk driving accidents. Both have also experienced the program in the past as well. They observed a Shattered Dreams reenactment during their freshman year.

“My uncle was paralyzed in a drunk driving accident when he was 19 and he died in September,” Starnez said. “It is personal for me and that’s why I wanted to get involved.”

Both Espinoza and Starnez played the role of severely injured students in the accident. Once EMS and law enforcement arrived at the scene, the students where transported to Seton Medical Center Hays in Kyle, where doctors performed a training session on how to treat the victims in the case of an accident.

Espinoza said her brother is the only member of her family who was not made aware of the staged accident.

“I hope this opens his eyes,” Espinoza said. “I want him to know that if he makes these decisions, as his only sister, I could be gone. Just like anyone else, I am someone’s daughter, friend, cousin, and that can be taken away.”

While the scene lasted around 30 minutes, this event itself takes months of preparation.

Crystal Dixon, Shattered Dreams co-chairperson, said the organization has been coordinating with the district and the city since September.

Although the scene is completely staged, law enforcement, EMS and fire department personnel involved in the scene are current first responders. They reenact the scene with all the steps and procedures they would take in the event of a real crash.

Hays CISD alumnus Andrew DeLeon (right) applies makeup to Lehman High student Evey Ramirez in preparation for the March 1 Shattered Dreams program. (Photo by Exsar Arguello)

The program and staged scene alternates from Lehman High to Hays High every other year, with a break after the second year.

When Moe and Gene Johnson High in Buda opens, the program will run three years straight, alternating from all the schools in the area. 

While the “injured” students are taken to the hospital, Gutierrez, who plays the role of the “drunk driver,” is taken into custody.

Gutierrez is transferred to a jail cell, and then makes a phone call to her parents about the accident. She then speaks to a Hays County Judge who will address her crimes.

Once the reenactment is complete, all participants are then taken on a retreat at a secret location in Hays County. While at the retreat, the student volunteers write letters to their parents about what they learned through the process.

Back at Lehman, a board with pictures of the victims is hung in a hallway with the victims’ obituaries. Students are encouraged to write notes and letters on the board to their “fallen” peers.

Obituaries are read aloud during class, and teachers discuss with students the damage drunk driving can do to a community.

“We always just want to make an impact with these students,” Dixon said. “If we can save one person’s life we’ve done our job, and I know it’s all worth it.”

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