Grade 10 students from the Energetic Learning Campus were given a tour of the Fort St. John Hospital last week, but it was not a traditional field trip.
They were there as part of the RCMP’s P.A.R.T.Y. program — which stands for Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related Trauma in Youth — where they were shown real-world consequences for risky behaviour.
“This is not to scare them, but to explain that these are the risks that you take when you do drugs or alcohol, or just take risks in general,” explained Cpl. Jodi Shelkie of the Fort St. John RCMP. This is the 10th year that the program has been running in Fort St. John.
“[When a] youth has been injured I hear, ‘I never thought it could happen to me’ or, ‘I didn’t realize the outcome could be this.’ Well, we show them, this is what the outcome could be,” she said.
At times it was graphic.
Doctors and nurses explained what happens when someone is brought into the hospital. On one end is the morgue, where families would come to identify the body. If they are injured, they show them the extent to which they would need physiotherapy to recover.
A funeral director explained how difficult it is to deal with grieving families.
“Because there are a lot of emotions involved with it, it sticks with them,” said Shelkie.
Grade 10 student Nick Gauthier said he wasn’t phased by the talks, but noticed a lot of other people were affected.
“When the funeral director was talking, he was telling us to imagine if one of us died, and we had to imagine our parents mourning over us, and I think that’s what set a lot of people off,” he said.
It is a different message than the one they so often hear, said Sheklie, and it targets teenagers just as they’re getting their first drivers licenses.
“Teachers can say to them 'don’t do drugs' because this will happen; they expect police officers to say to them 'don’t do drugs' because this will happen. We’re not saying that,” she explained. “We’re saying this has happened. These nurses say from my experience, this is what I see. This is who I see in the morgue, from my experience, and this is what I’ve seen in the emergency room.”
Grace Basisty, another Grade 10 student, said the day had a profound impact on her.
“I don’t drink at all, but I’m going to be really cautious if I do ever, and avoid getting into cars with drunk drivers and not doing drugs,” she said.
And according to Shelkie, it works.
“It’s a great reaction, I use these students often the next year to promote P.A.R.T.Y. A lot of them are hesitant, saying, ‘We’re going to the hospital for the day — how boring is that going to be?’ And then afterwards they’re my greatest advocates,” she said.
She added that many of the members of the police force and doctors who contribute went through the program when they were in school, and it had a profound impact on them.