In life, there are no make-up exams: choose carefully. These were the final words of a moving presentation to Tiverton High School juniors and seniors by Dan Converse, a father who lost his 16-year-old son in a drunk driving crash in 2007. These words were taken from a poster in the background of a photograph on Mr. Converse’s son; perhaps the last photo taken of him alive.
In an effort to encourage safe decision making, Dan Converse spoke to the 11th- and 12th-grade students in a moving and at times painful presentation that was coupled with a car crash/rollover simulation by the Rhode Island State Police. The presentation was meant to bring to light the very real consequences of drunk driving and not wearing a seatbelt.
Jon Converse was not wearing his seatbelt the night he was killed in Barrington. Officers at the scene of the crash speculate that the seatbelt would have saved his life. It's one more bitter pill for his grieving parents to swallow.
Schools and communities often focus additional attention on drunk driving, traffic safety, and underage drinking around prom time, but the truth is these life and death issues are present every night of the year.
Jon Converse died on a Monday night, Nov. 5, 2007. Not a holiday, no special occasion, not even a weekend.
Prom and graduation season seems to push the topic to the surface. Prom is one of the most anticipated events for most high school students – and sometimes the most dreaded for parents. Prom safety websites abound. There are lots of searchable lists of tips for parents on the internet each emphasizing different aspects of parental supervision.
Communication and supervision are key. Parents need to know where there kids will be, with whom they are going, and set guidelines for behavior and curfew. Prom night does not need to be an all-night affair. Parents need to communicate the expectation that it will be a substance-free celebration. Kids need to know that they must never drink and drive or get into a car with a driver who has been drinking. Parents must make it comfortable for their kids to pick up the phone and call for a ride home.
The THS juniors and seniors heard from a still grieving father today; a father whose 16-year-old son will never get to his junior prom. Jon Converse will forever be 16, never go to a prom, never graduate, never have a career, find the love of his life, and will never provide his parents with grandchildren. His soccer uniform still hangs in his closet, his bedroom remains largely untouched, and his father carries his funeral prayer card with him everywhere he goes.
The message to students from a stranger who lost his only boy is powerful, but the message from the students' own parents will be the most influential on prom night and every other night of the year. Teens make bad choices. They don’t always think about the consequences. That’s when parents step in to do the thinking for them.
A simple reminder to wear a seat belt, a stern warning about no drinking, a firm guideline about curfew – they all go a long way to ensuring that in the Pass/Fail tests of life, no make-up exam is needed.