“We’re telling our teens, ‘Enjoy the summer, go to parties, go to the beach,'” said In One Instant Co-Founder Gail Schenbaum Lawton. “Just make smart driving choices, so your friends don’t have to drive to your funeral.”
When the Robert Frost Auditorium started to fill with students on Wednesday morning, May 29, there was a lot of buzzing conversation, the sound of kids just glad to be out of class after state testing, carrying into the work for finals. Once the film began to roll, things quieted considerably.
The short film offered a completely plausible story of teenagers drinking and driving, with devastating results. Death, paralysis, imprisonment all played out in the end.
The In One Instant program is an emotionally charged experience, designed to instill a lifelong behavioral shift in teens. Through peer engagement, it gets students to make safe driving choices and influence their friends to do the same. The In One Instant co-founders, all parents of high school students, work closely with specialists to customize the program to meet the specific needs of each school.
A group of CCHS students were selected beforehand to write a letter to the parents, apologizing for how they died. (See video IMG_0237) As they took their turns at the podium, the audience grew even more somber, listening to their friend’s regrets over bad choices and early death.
The program starts days before, with a workshop to prepare selected students and parents to lead an all-school assembly. The “Today I Died” letter readings were followed by taking the “Vow to Live.” All students were then urged to join the ‘In One Instant’ school club to spread safe driving tools to their peers.
“It really moved me to see the impact it had on our students,” Dan Blank, Assistant Principal at University High in Los Angeles, wrote in a thank you letter to the organization.“What a dramatic shift in tone and tenor from the first 15 minutes to the last 30 minutes. I am certain that your work will save countless lives. I sincerely hope we continue to provide this service to our school community.”
In One Instant has also been praised by the California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Los Angeles County Medical Association and UCLA School of Public Health.
Will it save lives ? Disasters averted have no statistics, but judging from the students at the assembly, the impact of an imagined car crash may well prevent the impact of a lethal choice.