Hiram College

Emergency responders re-enact a drunk driving crash scene.

Students from 50 schools in Portage and Trumbull Counties were exposed to the horrors of drinking and driving yesterday.

Held this year on Hiram’s lower campus, “None 4 Under 21” is an annual event aimed to thwart high school juniors and seniors from the temptations of drinking and driving they may face around this time of the year.

“The event is geared toward graphically illustrating for these teenagers that there are disastrous consequences when you drink and drive,” said Lynette Blasiman, Ravenna Health Commissioner, and Co-Chair of None 4 Under 21.  “We deliberately do this every year at prom time when many teens might be tempted to drink and drive, or to drive with someone who has been drinking.”

Hiram President Thomas Chema addressed the teens at the beginning of the program, telling them about the special significance the event has for Hiram College.

In 2006, two students were killed and another severely injured when a repeat drunk driver struck the car in which they were riding, on state Route 700 near Burton, as he was fleeing from police. The driver was found to have a blood alcohol level several times the legal limit at the time of the accident, and was eventually sentenced to 38 years in prison.

Three speakers whose lives have been changed by drunk driving also addressed the students. The family of a young victim who was killed, a young woman currently serving a sentence for drinking and driving, and a young man, Aaron Cooksey, who has finished serving his sentence, but still lives with the regret, all shared their personal stories.

Cooksey grew up in North Canton, and upon graduating high school, went on to pursue his dreams of being an elementary school teacher at the University of Mount Union. He was an athlete, often described as a “good kid” who had every opportunity waiting for him.

Following a sports injury, he began a downward spiral that lead to drinking heavily and often driving under the influence. Like so many who choose to drink and drive, Cooksey said he thought he was invincible – that the worst situation wouldn’t happen to him.

After getting into an accident in July 2001 that killed his best friend, he came to realize the very real consequences. He said he found he wasn’t so invincible after all, and the choice to drink and drive was more like flipping a coin. Cooksey asked students to consider the hundreds of lives they can affect by taking that chance and whether it is worth throwing so much away.

While the teens also watched a dramatized crash, complete with victims, emergency forces and later a funeral, the most real part of the day came during the Walk of Remembrance. There, all in attendance walked through a hall where the families of eleven local drunk driving victims stood near photos of their loved ones.

Prior to the event, students created banners illustrating a message against drinking and driving. They were on display during the event.

Photos by Kasey-Samuel Adams