Story prepared by Wellspring intern Melisa Damcevska
On a recent afternoon, the auditorium of South River High School filled up quickly as first the freshmen and sophomore students, and later on, in a second presentation the juniors and seniors, filed in, unaware of the story they were about to hear.
As the students finally settled into their seats, the opening activity was announced – a trivia game about underage drinking. Two students – one from each representing class– were chosen and called up to the front of the auditorium for a chance to answer a question and win a prize. The four students, two seniors and two sophomores, who worked hard with the South River SUDS (Stopping Underage by Students) group walked the aisles and were in charge of choosing which students would be called to the front. The fire of competition quickly blazed as the students vied for a win for their respective classes. How much the students were aware of the dangers, risks and overall facts associated with underage drinking quickly came to light.
Overall, the students had a basic knowledge of underage drinking, but did not think too far into the consequences. The educational aspect of the trivia game was a success, with students learning about the Good Samaritan Law/Lifeline Legislation, Social Host Liability and discrediting general myths about alcohol that society leads them to believe as true.
After the trivia game, the students settled into their seats once again for another presentation – this time given by Gabe Hurley, a life-long resident of Middlesex County who was involved in a car crash in 2009 in which he was severely injured by a high school student who was driving recklessly.
Hurley jumped headfirst into his story, giving the students an overview of what his life was like before the crash to give them an idea that no one is immune to such events. He said that we would all like to believe that tragic events could never happen to us, but they can. He then transitioned to the crash, showing pictures of his car, the piece of metal from the other car that caused so much damage both to his vehicle and to him, and x-rays and images of his time spent in the hospital. At this point of the presentation, a pin drop could be heard in the auditorium as the students listened to his words reverently.
Hurley went into his recovery and his life post-crash, teaching the students a valuable lesson –that one small choice could alter someone’s life in a second, but no matter what you should never give up living. A gifted guitar player, Hurley ended his presentation by playing a medley of songs on his own guitar – a statement that earned him even more respect and admiration from the students.
Gabe Hurley left a huge impact on the students, with some students shedding tears over his story as they filed out of the auditorium. The same four SUDS students stood at the doors of the auditorium to pass out one final gift of knowledge – a card about the Good Samaritan Law to act as a reminder for what they had just learned.