WSJ SADD members hold funeral, make point

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / February 23, 2000

EDGARD – Malana Joseph is dressed all in black and stands before a silver- and-black casket sitting in the gym at West St. John High School.”I died when I was driving home from a party and I was drunk,” Malana said. “Ihit a tree.”Yoshi Johnson, also dressed all in black, nods. “Yeah, I died from alcoholpoisoning.”Malana and Yoshi are president and vice-president, respectively, of the West St. John High chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions. They andother SADD members recently staged a mock funeral to demonstrate the harsh consequences of making bad decisions in life.

“We want to make teens think about what they do,” said Malana, “make them think before they do drugs, or get drunk.”One end of the gym was set up like a room at a funeral parlor with brass lamps, flowers, rows of chairs and the casket. Inside the coffin there was afull-length mirror.

Sitting in the front two rows were about 20 SADD members all dressed in black, some of their faces painted with white make-up. Each of the studentshad “died” because of bad choices. All day they walked the halls of the schooltelling their stories, trying to convince others to be careful and think about what they do with their lives.

“It’s all about making bad decisions,” said Yoshi, “and we want them to make wise decisions.”The West St. John student body started to enter the gym. One of theteachers, Gloria Johnson, sang a mournful gospel song as the students took their seats in front of the open casket. Sitting to the right of the coffin wasthe Rev. Michael Roberson of the St. John the Baptist Church in Edgard. Hewas there to perform the eulogy over the coffin of the SADD members.

“It’s appropriate that I come here today,” Father Michael said as he looked over the crowd of students, half of them in his congregation. “Seven daysago, I had a friend of mine die from drugs.”The SADD faculty sponsor, Monica Hart, quieted the students down. Malanawent to the podium and told how she died in the grisly seven seconds it took her car to hit the tree. She went into excruciating detail on how her body wasshattered as her car slammed into the tree. The audience was quiet whenshe finished, and there was a small smattering of applause as she sat down.

Hart then instructed the students to file by the coffin and stare at the person within.

“Think about that person,” she told the students. “That really could be you ifyou make the wrong choices in life.”As Johnson sang another song the students slowly walked by the casket.

Some of them wouldn’t even get close, not even looking inside. Othersstopped, looked at their image in the mirror for a second and moved on.

Of course, there were the class clowns. Several of the boys started moaningand crying crocodile tears, falling on the ground. They were carried back totheir seats by their giggling cohorts.

After all the students were seated, each of the SADD members got up and gave a short speech on how a bad decision caused them to “die.” Roberson blessed the casket and told the story about a friend of his who has just died from an overdose of drugs.

The students were quiet. There was no laughing or joking.Hart addressed the student body.

“Many of you were afraid to look into that coffin, afraid to look in that mirror,” she said. “We have to do something to get you all to start thinkingabout your actions.”Malana looked at the serious faces and said, “If we get a least one person to change their mind, this has worked.”

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