A coalition of schools in Idaho is proving education is about much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.
These lessons could literally mean the difference between life and death. A day-long reality check for about 400 students from Wilder, Homedale, Marsing, and Nampa begins with a simulated drunk driving wreck. It's safe to say most school days don't start out like that. Brandy Smith, the coordinator of the Risky Behavior Symposium, says it's a wake-up call high school students desperately need.
"I don't care if they are the A-plus student, the 4.0 student or the at-risk student that are at an alternative school," Smith said. "They all need to hear this message."
Now in its sixth year, the symposium isn't focused on scaring students, but educating them on how choices will not only impact their lives but those around them. It's a message that already resonates with teens like Jose Luis Buenrostro, who lost his cousin in a car accident last year.
"It's not a joke. Honestly it's not a joke," Buenrostro said. "It happens, you know, and you don't think it's going to happen it just happens. Out of nowhere, it's just: hold on, hold on...boom and feel the hit."
The 17-year-old high school student was left scarred and grieving.
"I still think to this day 'Why was it that he passed away.'" Buenrostro said.
School counselors say teenagers can only be successful students if their physical and emotional needs are cared for first. They call it being "trauma-informed" about their students' lives.
"They live that story when they come through the doors," Joy Kaplan, a school counselor said. "Some of them are broken and need that support and need that guidance."
Educators hope days like this will help teens open up, have honest conversations and get real answers. Learning doesn't just happen in the classroom, and these school leaders are willing to tackle touchy topics in order to grow teenagers into well-rounded adults.
"They have to walk out of here being good citizens and how do they know what that is if we don't teach it," Smith said.