Some 1,400 teenagers from across the district got a “no nonsense” lesson in smart risk-taking when the theatrical production, “HEROES,” took to the stage at Fort High last week.
The program—a show about life choices—addressed teens in grades eight through 12, as well as a number of those now out of the school system.
Rather than presenting a list of “don’t” messages, “HEROES” speaks to teens in their language—and offers strategies based in the real world where risk is a part of life.
Todd Hubbs, a 24-year-old who was left a quadriplegic after a car accident in 1992, shared his personal story with the teens during four one-hour sessions. It included graphic details about the permanent injury he must spend a lifetime dealing with as a result of choosing the stupid risk of drinking and driving.
“It was certainly an appropriate message and a good time of the year to [present] it,” said Fort High principal Terry Ellwood, who sat in on one of the sessions.
“It was well organized and it was great to have it available to students right down to grade eight,” he added.
Although Ellwood held out hope the non-traditional safety message hit home with the teen audiences, he admitted the reality of it reaching everyone was slim
“One thing [Hubbs] said that I think is still very true is that some kids will listen and think about their choices the next time—and some will carry on thinking they are invincible,” he noted.
“But that’s human nature and you can’t [influence] everyone,” he reasoned.
“I think it impacted some of my students but not all . . . but then it never does,” echoed grade eight teacher Larry Patrick, who accompanied students from J.W. Walker to the “HEROES” presentation.
“But I do think now they all clearly know the difference between smart risk and stupid risk,” he added.
Grade 12 students Alison Agar and Briana Boldero, both 17, had opposing opinions about the presentation.
Boldero had anticipated a more “impacting” hour and came away from it a bit disappointed while Agar already was assessing what future decisions she would make that involved risks.
“I thought it was really good. He told you what you wanted to hear,” said Agar. “I was kind of aware of [the issues] already but it made me think twice about taking risks.”
“I actually didn’t think it was very well done,” countered Boldero. “I think it lacked emotion and [Hubbs] should have taken more of a stand about the things you should and shouldn’t do.
“Some of [my friends] thought it was good because it didn’t have the ‘gore factor,’” she added. “But maybe that’s what was needed.”
For his part, local “HEROES” co-ordinator John Beaton, a paramedic with the Fort Frances Ambulance Service, was pleased with the presentation, noting it was interesting to watch the students’ reactions.
“They were captivated by it,” he remarked.
Beaton said “HEROES” packages will be distributed to district schools in January to help promote the “smart risk” message in the classroom.