Prom season is almost here and students in the Jackson Memorial High School are getting a tough lesson that could potentially save their lives. 

Grim Reaper at Jackson Memorial Hgh School as part of intense anti-teen drinking program
Grim Reaper at Jackson Memorial Hgh School as part of intense anti-teen drinking program (Jason Allentoff, Townsquare Media NJ)

We always stress the importance of good, safe driving practices for our teens and young adults.  But sometimes, the words spewed out during a lecture or written in a textbook fail to make an impact.  That's where the "grim reaper" program comes into play.

The activity was developed back in 2006 and has been a staple of the curriculum for the Memorial and Liberty High School's in the district.

With help from the Jackson Township Police Department, a student acts as the grim reaper, even donning the hooded cloak.  He or she, goes to a classroom, taps peers on the shoulder and takes them out into the hall.  They put on a t-shirt that now symbolizes their death from a drunk driving accident.  A handful of students are also arrested by the cops and put in orange jump suits.

Vice Principal Carl Perino says "they then have to go to school for a week without socializing with friends, until an assembly.  It is during that time that they discuss their "fictional death" in a story - either through reading something, making a video or an audio recording.  It's very powerful.  When we do these, there's not a dry eye in the auditorium."

Perino adds "it always sends the clear message that your actions can have a dramatic effect on you and everyone you know."

The next assembly for the program will be held tomorrow at the school.  Student Erin Dippold will be one of the presenters.  While she won't divulge the details of the tale she came up with, she does say "it's changed so many aspects of my life.  It makes you realize how your decisions, both good and bad, can affect the people around you.  People that are close to you.  I recently got my license and now I am always extra cautious when I get in the car, thanks to the program and what my parents and teachers have talked to me about."

Not only is drunk driving part of it, now texting while driving is also emphasized as a risky and dangerous behavior that can lead to consequences.


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