HESPERIA — Every 15 minutes, the school bell rings. Every 15 minutes, Hesperia High School students become aware that yet another one of their peers has been pulled out of their classroom and pronounced dead.

Funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, Thursday morning marked the beginning of the "Every 15 Minutes" two-day assembly at Hesperia High School where juniors and seniors were challenged to think about the consequences of drinking and driving.

Students from both HHS and Canyon Ridge High School sat in the bleachers and watched the aftermath of a mock auto collision unfold before their very eyes on the football field.

Justin Bartle, vice principal of student activities, said at least 40 student volunteers, including the ASB club and various High Desert officials, helped to put on the assembly to educate the school about the dangers of driving under the influence. 

“Today’s portion will simulate one of the students having died, while the other will be arrested for drinking and driving as the staff member also involved in the collision will be transported to a hospital as he struggles to stay alive,” Bartle said.

The scenario involved California Highway Patrol, San Bernardino County Fire Department, Hesperia School Police and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department personnel working together at a staged two-vehicle collision involving a school faculty member and two teenage students driving home from prom.

Bartle said with the school’s own prom coming up next week, this assembly is a great reminder for students to make wise decisions when out having fun.

In addition to the assembly Thursday, 19 students were chosen to be the "walking dead" and be pulled out of their classroom throughout the day. The students, who along with a few faculty members will spend the night at a local hotel and discuss what their experience was like being "dead," were not allowed to have contact with family or friends for one day.

“Sometimes these kids think they’re invincible and nothing bad will happen to them, and then the next minute something like this crash can happen,” said HHS teacher Philip Padilla. “I hope this assembly touches them so they know what to do and make the smart choice next week at prom."

A student narrator set the scene for the crash at the start of the assembly, and once student volunteers pulled the sheets covering the crash on the field, students were shocked to see one of their peers had been ejected out the front window while officials rushed onto the scene.

Shortly after firefighters used the Jaws of Life to remove the injured staff member from one of vehicles, a CHP helicopter landed in the middle of the field to fly the injured staff member to a nearby hospital. The student who caused the collision was then arrested on the suspicion of drunken driving and placed in the back of a patrol car.  

Blanca Reyes, 15, of Hesperia, said being a part of the assembly was “really cool and even though it’s not real, it’s crazy to see these people we know pass away or get hurt like this.”

“What I really like about this event is the cooperation these young students get to see from all the personnel in order show how they can prevent this from happening,” said CHP officer Matt Hunt.

The second part of the two-day assembly Friday will consist of a mock funeral where students will gather inside the gym as parents of the 19 "walking dead" students and loved ones of those involved in the mock crash come forward and speak. 

Monica Solano can be reached at MSolano@VVDailyPress.com or at 760-951-6231. Follow her on Twitter @DP_MonicaInes.