HUMBOLDT — A program that aims to show high school students the consequences of risk-taking behaviors like driving impaired has gone virtual.
Instead of a single, full day session where students from all over Humboldt and district gather, this year’s Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program is being held over Zoom spread over four days.
Shari Hinz, the executive director for Safe Communities Humboldt and Area, said the program has a message that’s important to get in front of local teens.
“[We’re] just grateful that we can provide the program this year, even though it's a little bit different. Certainly in-person is optimal, but again, virtual is better than not having the program at all,” she said
“We did it in segments simply because we can't have the students sit in front of a screen online all day for a full day like we normally would have them do in-person for the program.”
Grade 9, 10, 11 and 12 students from Humboldt Collegiate Institute, Annaheim, Bruno, Englefeld, Lake Lenore, Lanigan, Muenster and Middle Lake are participating in this year’s event.
The first segment, featuring a mock vehicle crash and talks from Dave Mortensen with the Humboldt and District Ambulance as well as the Humboldt District Hospital emergency room department, was held over a period of two and a half hours on May 5.
It was possible to show the mock crash because in 2017 Safe Communities had that segment filmed with the idea that they’d be able to show it to students if emergency services had to go to a real emergency.
“As it turned out, it came in handy this year when we couldn't have students in person again because of the COVID restrictions and the provincial restrictions,” Hinz said.
The second segment, to be held May 12, will feature presentations from the RCMP, about addictions and from a survivor. The third segment on May 19 features a funeral home virtual tour, a presentation on therapies, and a lunch done while simulating a disability caused from a crash. The final segment on May 26 will feature a presentation on the mental health effect of a crash on emergency services personnel as well as a presentation from another survivor.
Hinz said she asked the guests to record their presentations to avoid delays from problems with technology.
“A lot of people put a lot of work into it. There's a lot of really great high quality video resources that have been created that we can use for years to come with this program. It's awesome to be able to do that.”
As for the impact the virtual program has on the students compared to the in-person version, Hinz said while she will have to ask what teachers saw on their end, there were students asking questions during the program, showing that they were engaged.
The PARTY program in Humboldt has faced a number of challenges in the past few years. In 2018, the program was cancelled after the Humboldt Broncos bus collision. In 2019, the Horizon School Division requested the mock crash not feature victims or arrests. 2020 was set to return to normal until the pandemic placed restrictions on gathering. As a result, it was cancelled.
For both cancellations, students participated in the program in a subsequent year.