Newport News Public Schools TV and the Telecommunications Center

cameraman fire tower
Telecom student Benjamin Anderson, left, shoots video from Newport News Fire Department Tower Ladder 10. (Carmen Scott photo)

For high school students, springtime means prom season is here, and with that comes preparation: purchasing a dress or renting a tuxedo, perhaps doing a "promposal" or otherwise finding a date, securing a ride or a car, and ... stopping to think about the dangers of distracted or drunk driving.

The "Every 15 Minutes" program has been conducted at NNPS high schools for many years, and Telecom students, led by Telecom Supervisor Ray Price and Instructor Carl Daniels, Jr., spend the day video-recording the action to produce a video that will be shown at the school assembly the next morning. "Every 15 Minutes" takes place at numerous locations, and the video allows all to see what transpired at the other sites.

The national program simulates a fatal car accident involving students. High school students participate in and view the drama as it unfolds: Police and Fire personnel arrive on the scene, the "Jaws of Life" cut into a car, a LifeEvac helicopter lands nearby, a driver is arrested, bodies are covered, victims are taken away by ambulance and hearse.

This year the setting of the horrific (albeit fake) car crash was Menchville High School.

Telecom students use three or four cameras to gather footage, which all has to be reviewed, edited and put into a single video, then burned to DVD. This year, students from Menchville contributed some of the video used for the production. The opening scenes, showing students drinking and driving, were taken by Menchville students using their cell phones, as were the scenes of the notification of the parents at the school.

The editing process takes many, many hours, and this year was done by Daniels.

Telecom students Benjamin Anderson (Menchville High), Carmen Scott (Denbigh High), Jahnis Dale (Woodside High), and Brandon Marrero (Heritage High) participated in the shoot, which was held April 27. All four are seniors.

The Telecom camera operators video-recorded the scenes, and one even got to go up in the Fire Department's tower ladder for a bird's eye view. Throughout the day, the students traveled to various locations to cover the events following the "accident": Riverside Hospital, Peninsula Funeral Home, Newport News City Jail, and the General District Courthouse.

According to their website, "Every 15 Minutes" is "an event designed to dramatically instill teenagers with the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol and texting while driving. [The] powerful program will challenge students to think about drinking, texting while driving, personal safety, and the responsibility of making mature decisions when lives are involved."

The program is presented in the days leading up to prom and graduation. It is organized locally by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and it entails coordination among police, fire, air ambulance, school, hospital, funeral services, and court personnel.

Other Telecom students reported from the scene to create their own videos about the program for their TV class projects.

Additionally, the students will be presenting "The Making of 'Every 15 Minutes'" in one of the upcoming episodes of their news show, "Focus."