Posen students get stark lesson on poor choices and the consequences

POSEN STUDENTS heard presentations from (above) Deputy James Leedy and Ted Beck along with a personal story from (at left) Jackie Krawczak. Students were encouraged to make good choices in their lives. (Photos by Richard Lamb)

by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor

Posen high school students got a stark look at the effects of driving drunk. A presentation by Jackie Krawczak, funeral director Ted Beck, resource officer Deputy James Leedy and teacher Kristin Bedard gave insight to an assembly that featured some graphic object lessons and frank talk about making good choices. Timed to get ahead of prom and graduation season, the one-hour presentation got the attention of the students.

Beck and Leedy opened the presentation by rolling out a casket in front of the students sitting in the bleachers. That changed the mood of what had been a brief party of sorts with bouncing beach balls flying around the gymnasium and refreshments being served.

“You know how fun it is to go out and have fun, to go out and drink. You shouldn’t be doing it, you are not old enough. But if you go out and drink, get behind the wheel, get your girl next to you—guys. And go racing down the road to show how fast you can drive. Then bam, that quick. We are not going to open that casket today because it is not going to be you in there,” Beck said in opening. 

“It is not going to be you in there, guys, because it is going to be your girlfriend. We are going to leave it closed, because when you went around that curve, after you had been drinking, and you hit that tree, it was on her side.”

Beck said he went to parties when he was in college and stopped after a near-miss on the highway, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision. 

He said, if you make the mistake of underage drinking, or excessive drinking at any age, there are people who would answer the telephone call when you ask for a ride home. Use them, he urged. 

He urged students to find productive ways to spend their time that could be helping out those in need. 

“So many young people get a bad rap. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you heard that and people said that is true, except the kids from Posen. They are wonderful,” Beck said. 

We all have choices, Beck said, encouraging students to make good choices. 

KRAWCZAK CAME next, retelling a story about how a drunk driver took the life of her younger sister, Liz June 24, 2018. 

She got a telephone call in the wee hours of the morning with tragic news. Her sister and brother-in-law were coming back from a mudding event in the Grand Rapids’ area, pulling a trailer with a mudding truck on it.

JACKIE KRAWCZAK’s presentation made an impression on Posen High School students last week. (Photo by Richard Lamb)

The couple traveled down a country road encountering a vehicle swerving all over the roadway. Her brother-in-law, whom Krawczak called a phenomenal driver, quickly ran through his options, given the load he was pulling. But the collision could not be avoided.

“When he hit the rumble strip, that is what goofed the driver awake out of his drunken stupor and he over-corrected to get away from the rumble strips and back on his side. The Dodge Durango he was driving landed on my sister on the passenger side. She was prounced dead at the scene,” Krawczak said. 

The gymnasium became perfectly quiet while Krawczak related the facts of the crash. The passenger in the oncoming vehicle had severely broken legs but the drunk driver was unhurt. 

“You have heard it before, it is rarely the drunk person that gets hurt,” she said. “He got out of his vehicle. He was drunk. He was stumbling around but he was not hurt whatsoever.”

Her brother-in-law Chris tried to help his wife, but she was crushed, with blood everywhere, Krawczak told the students. 

“After this all happened we had to go through the court experience, and that was not a fun experience, and we had to give a victim’s impact statement,” Krawszek said.

The driver had a suspended license with several infractions on his record and the judge had a range of sentences he could give from four to 20 years in prison.

SHE THEN asked the students sitting in the bleachers to pretend they were in the courtroom that day while the victim’s impact statement was read. 

“People have choices every single day. That is one of the incredible gifts we have as humans. Our lives are the combined product of our many choices,” she began reading from the text she read in court that day. “There are so many choices surrounding this extremely sad situation. It started with a terrible choice by (the driver) to drink and drive.”

She continued by saying, “Now Liz’s husband, her friends, her family her co-workers, her neighbors and anyone who knew her are facing choices on how to deal with the reality of losing an amazing person. Your, (and I looked at the defendant), family and friends, must choose how they will respond in this situation. We all get to choose whether we will be resilient or ruined by this, whether we will be victims or overcome this and whether this will define us, destroy us or strengthen us.”

She said that choice is a powerful thing, directing her comments to the judge. Although everyone else had the ability to make choices, her sister, the reason for the court action, could not make any more decisions.

“She was someone who had a long track record of making decisions that made her an incredible person that made an impact on so many. Liz chose to be kind. She chose to smile at everyone she saw. She chose to use her many talents to help others. She chose to enjoy life. She chose to marry her best friend, Chris and she chose to be very committed to their marriage,” Krawczak said, adding other great choices her sister made.

“But she doesn’t get to choose anymore. You, the defendant, ended her ability to choose anything ever again with your one selfish decision that you made. Your honor, one of two choices to make here today is yours and we trust that you will make the best choice. We believe that the best choice is for a maximum sentence because Liz will never get to make another choice. But the defendant will get to make so many more,” she told the students, reading from her statement to the court. 

THE DEFENDANT had twice the legal limit of blood alcohol at the time of the crash. He was sentenced to eight years and is still in prison. 

“The most important thing to me was that he makes better choices once he gets out of prison,” Krawczak said and offered a closing piece of advice for the students. 

“The ability to make choices comes with enormous responsibility, because you

r choices don’t just affect you, they affect everybody else around you. That was demonstrated so strongly at that time,” she said. The decision by one man had a profound negative impact on so many people, she said.

“Don’t be that person. You are one decision away from being that person. All you have to do is make the right choice in those really key important moments,” she said in closing. 

Bedard closed the session by imploring the students to keep this presentation in mind as they grew older. 

“These choices never really leave you. These choices are there forever,” she said.