Edgemont, Hot Springs and Custer students attend Freshmen Impact event at Crazy Horse Memorial
Edgemont Senior Peyton Ostenson is loaded into a Life Flight helicopter as part of the Freshmen Impact Skit at Crazy Horse Memorial. Her injuries are artificial and the result of special effects makeup and prosthetics. The moulage team of Air Force personnel and EMTs constructed the wounds to represent injuries from a fatal car crash.
By Garland Wright
EDGEMONT – On April 15, 2023, Edgemont, Hot Springs, and Custer high school students attended Freshmen Impact at Crazy Horse Memorial. Freshmen Impact started in 2006 when now-retired law enforcement officer, Rick McPherson, saw a need for educating today’s youth on the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and the internet.
The Freshmen Impact program has grown since its inaugural Wall, South Dakota event. Since then, the program has grown to serve many schools throughout South Dakota and parts of Nebraska and Wyoming.
Though each Freshmen Impact program lasts one day for visiting students, the event takes months of planning and involves coordinating hundreds of volunteers. This year Edgemont seniors and juniors made up part of those volunteers through their performance of the Freshmen Impact skit.
The Freshmen Impact skit, written by and performed by Edgemont students, depicted students at a party who unfortunately decided to consume alcohol and edibles. As a result, one of the student actors is hit and killed by the student actor playing an intoxicated driver.
“I decided to be a part of the Freshmen Impact program because I know how important it is; I pass a memorial marker every day of a girl who died from getting hit in a drunk driving accident, and I know how tough that can be for families. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else,” stated Mackenzie Hollenbeck, an Edgemont junior who played a victim in the skit.
Edgemont students involved in this year’s Freshmen Impact skit were Brenden Nelson, Amy Printz, Mackenzie Hollenbeck, Addison Neville, Mckenna Alexander, JJ Ostenson, Jared Leite, Bridget Neville, Peyton Ostenson, Antje Rendon, Olivia Ellstrom, Sierra Morse, and Kira Dermatis. Becky Harding and Melody Printz served as the group’s directors.
The skit then depicted the car crash, and first responders showed up to enact what they would do in real life if such a horrific event happened. The scene consisted of two crashed cars, “injured” student actors adorned with bloody prosthetics, first responders including paramedics, fire department, police, and even a mortician. The attendees had the privilege of seeing the Life Flight helicopter land at the scene to load up an “injured” student actor.
“When I first got out to the crash scene and saw Peyton on the ground, and she really looked hurt, that was the most shocking part. It felt weird to play the part of the drunk driver, essentially the bad guy. It is out of character for me, but it can still happen to anyone,” states Brenden Nelson, the young man who played the part of the intoxicated driver.
“All morning, we sat while some people from the Air Force and two EMTs worked on making us look realistic for our crash scene. The moulage team first had to figure out the injuries we would have sustained if we were in the car crash depicted in the skit. Then the team used prosthetics, fake blood, and props to portray a realistic representation of injuries identifiable to EMTs and paramedics. The whole skit came together at the end when the moulage team dumped buckets of fake blood over the vehicle and our bodies,” states skit actor Peyton Ostenson. Ostenson portrayed a crash victim who went through the windshield of a car.
“At first, I thought I couldn’t get into character, but Brenden started acting his part, and then I quickly followed. I cried throughout the crash scene and even started shaking at one point,” stated skit actor Antje Rendon.
The skit then progressed to a funeral scene and eventually to a mock courtroom. In the mock courtroom, the student actor depicting the drunk driver must face a trial for his actions, including listening to the victim impact statements from the victims and their families. Also, the courtroom scene included a real judge and two real lawyers depicting the prosecution and defense in the mock trial. The skit concluded with the sentencing of the defendant.
The purpose of the skit, along with all the sessions in the morning, was to encourage students to make smart choices. The morning sessions addressed issues like drugs and alcohol, safe online choices, healthy romantic relationships, and drunk driving awareness.
Furthermore, students heard from guest speaker Roxanne Volgelsang. She shared the story of her son’s passing from a drunk driver. Her message remained consistent with the day’s themes. Do not drive intoxicated. Ever.
“I chose to participate because my grandfather runs it, and ever since I knew about it, I wanted to be part of the program. This event is much more personal because I have had experiences like this. As a child, I had a best friend who was killed in a car accident in which people were under the influence. I chose to do this so that no one else must go through this,” states Kira Dermatis.
The goal is the same with each Freshmen Impact event and is found in the group’s motto, “Creating Responsible Ripples.” Ultimately, the goal is to provide young teenagers with the knowledge and skills to make safe choices, promote positive relationships with peers, family, and community, and prevent destructive behavior which can lead to bodily injury and death. The hope is that students leave the day more aware and ultimately more responsible, thus creating ripple effects of responsibility throughout their lives and communities.