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April 21, 2016 • Headline News
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Mock drill could save lives: South Ripley ‘pay it forward’ project
“There have been 13 South Ripley student fatalities in the past 18 years,” Sieverding said to the crowd following the presentation. “These kids died because of accidents which involved speed, alcohol, drugs, lack of seatbelts, or other distractions. This reenactment wasn’t even close to reality. Trust me, it’s worse (when it’s real).”

Sandy Day Howard

Students in Mary Gehring’s English 12 class were given a special assignment when they entered their senior year last August. It’s the same assignment South Ripley students have been issued the past several years in Gehring’s Honors English class. It’s called “The Pay It Forward Project” and students were told it must be a significant, impactful community service

Versailles firefighters at mock drill MARY MATTINGLY AND SANDY DAY HOWARD PHOTOS
Versailles firefighters and first responders helped stage the mock disaster at South Ripley High School April 15. Destini Parsons played one of the injured in the car wreck. Below the firefighters work to extract the victims in the overturned vehicle.

After much thought, SR seniors Carah Beck and Destini Parsons decided they wanted to help save lives. The girls thought about friends and classmates who had died in automobile accidents and remembered former students from South Ripley, Jac-Ce-Del, Milan, and surrounding communities who had died too soon. They considered “Is there something we can do to possibly prevent a future disaster?” South Ripley High School alone has had 13 fatalities in its recent history.

Mock disaster at South Ripley High School Destini remembered going to a mock disaster at Milan High School that her step father, a first responder, had participated in. She found the message powerful and she wanted her friends and classmates to hear and see what she had seen so that they, too, might be moved to take action. She and Carah realized that texting while driving was an urgent issue for people of all ages in our current era of ‘easy access’ technology. They would put together a mock disaster that would provide a visual discovery of how texting while driving can end lives, and forever impact lives of those left behind. Carah and Destini began planning in September an event that, in the past, had only been implemented by adult professionals. The girls met with South Ripley High School Principal Dr. David Wintin and Superintendent Rob Moorhead to get approval for the event and then worked with Versailles Fire Chief Ben Sieverding. Sieverding helped the girls coordinate the event and planned with Emergency Medical Technicians, the Med-Evac Helicopter Unit, Versailles Fire Department, Rescue 69, and Ripley County Sheriff’s Department. Even the Ripley County Coroner’s office played a part in making the disaster a realistic experience.

Destini and Carah thought of Emily Huntington, a beautiful Jac-Cen-Del senior who died tragically in 2012. Emily’s mother, Jodi Comer, had become proactive and outspoken on the dangers of texting and driving after her daughter’s death and graciously accepted the invitation to come to the high school and speak to SR students as a part of the event. School Resource Officer Jeff Thielking would assist with implementation. SR juniors and seniors, along with their teachers and visitors, would attend the convocation. SR Seniors Maisie Riley, Gabriel Clark, and Destini agreed to play the victims of the crash. Emergency units were synchronized for arrival in the high school parking lot which would serve as the location for the accident scene. Carah and Destini gave thought to the siblings of SR students who had died in tragic accidents in recent years and knew that some of them would be among the spectators at the program. Families were notified that the presentation was approved to take place on Friday, April 15, the day before the 2016 Jr/ Sr. Prom. Any student who chose not to attend would have the option to be excused.

A car was acquired for the mock accident and was delivered to the school parking lot. Ripley County Emergency Services Workers flipped it on its top ahead of the demonstration in order to make it appear realistic. SR Art director Matthew Gadberry assisted with makeup and visuals. Senior Class Advisor Lindsey Payne assisted with photography. On the day of the program everything fell into place. Jodi Comer presented a video of Emily and told students how she had lost her child one fateful winter afternoon. Comer appealed to students to pay attention to the road while driving. “Nothing is so important that it can’t wait until you are stopped,” Comer told the assembly.

As students made their way from the assembly to the ‘accident scene’, they could hear sirens in the distance. Students walked toward the edge of the property where they could see the wrecked car, on its top, and they could hear the whimpering of the injured from inside. Police cars, first responders, medical units, and the fire department screamed into the parking lot as the student observers watched quietly. Within minutes, the sound of a helicopter was approaching and then gradually came closer until it loomed overhead and finally landed in the adjacent field. Ripley County Coroner Ron Reynolds drove up in his van while medics began to remove the students from the wreckage. A body bag was pulled from the back of the coroner’s wagon for the fatality. Some students watched silently while others cried as their classmates were taken from the scene. Student actor Gabe Clark was declared deceased, his body was placed in a bag, and loaded onto a gurney. “There have been 13 South Ripley student fatalities in the past 18 years,” Sieverding said to the crowd following the presentation. “These kids died because of accidents which involved speed, alcohol, drugs, lack of seatbelts, or other distractions. This reenactment wasn’t even close to reality. Trust me, it’s worse (when it’s real).” Sieverding continued, “Enjoy the prom and as you go back to your classes, do so quietly and pause to think of those 13 SR students who died in senseless accidents. Make sure we don’t have another one.”

After the program, students returned to class, contemplating what they’d seen and heard that morning. For Beck and Parsons, there was also a feeling of pride in their accomplishment. “This is such an important issue and Destini and I are very glad that we could raise awareness,” said a teary eyed Beck. “I felt overwhelmed during the disaster drill. What if this was real? That could have been my friend.” “We can’t thank everyone involved in this project enough because all of them donated their time to make this successful,” concluded the duo. Dr Wintin said following the exercise: “Our students do a great job with many “Pay It Forward” projects during their senior year. Carah and Destini’s project today is just a fantastic example of what our students are able to do, how much they care about others, and the kind of impact they can have on society in the future.”

Local Bulletin Board

Thursday, April 21
FFA banquet Thursday: Advisor to be honored
The South Ripley FFA Chapter will host their annual FFA banquet on Thursday, April 21. At 6 p.m. doors are open and at 6:30 the meeting will begin. Food will be provided. All past and present FFA members and their families are invited to attend to help celebrate the retirement of Patrick Holland. This banquet will be held in honor of Mr. Holland to thank him for all the years of service and encouragement he has brought upon all of his students. Please RSVP by April 12. Contact: Heidi Speer (812) 756-3689, Kylie Werner (812) 621-8227 or Lindsay Comer (812) 621-8083.

April 22 at Crossroads Restaurant
Luke Messer in Versailles Friday
Congressman Luke Messer of the 6th District will be taking his 2016 “Coffee with the Congressman” tour to Versailles on Friday, April 22. This is an opportunity for residents of Ripley County and the surrounding area to ask Messer questions about issues important to them and get updates on what’s happening in Congress. All “Coffee with the Congressman” stops are open to the public and the press. He will be at Crossroads Restaurant on US 50 from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Ripley County is included in the 6th district congressional office. Messer is running for re-election.

Deadline: April 30, 2016
Tarter-Crum trusts applications accepted
Applications for donations from the Frank Tarter Community Trust and the Ray Herman and Louise Herman Crum Community Trust may be submitted by tax exempt organizations from the Osgood and the surrounding area. Due to IRS regulations, only non-profit organizations are eligible to receive funds from the trust. For more details read the front page of the Osgood Journal dated April 12.

Deadline: May 3
Cross Plains Community grant requests
The Cross Plains Community Granting Committee will meet Thursday, May 5 at 6 p.m. at the Cross Plains Methodist Church to review grant requests. The meeting is open to the public. Any non profit organization including cemeteries within the Cross Plains zip code can request a grant from the Cross Plains Community Granting Fund, which is an endowment fund with the Ripley Co. Community Foundation. See more information on the front page of the Osgood Journal dated April 12.

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