It was the last day of classes before Christmas break at Temple City High School, and there was a festive air as a student Santa Claus walked the halls, and teachers and students celebrated the holiday season.
But every 23 minutes, deep reverberations from the school's brass victory bell reminded students of a darker side of the holiday season--the fact that every 23 minutes, someone in the United States dies in an alcohol-related traffic accident.
To commemorate those deaths, and in an effort to prevent more, the 30 members of Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) rang the bell at 23-minute intervals from 7:50 a.m. to 12:03 p.m., a total of 12 times during the half-day of classes.
Outside, several students stood silently amid trees adorned with black ribbons as the sound of the bell resonated, interrupting the holiday cheer.
SADD members took turns ringing the bell, passing out flyers and making banners. They wore black arm bands matching the ribbons on the trees to stress a holiday message: Don't drink and drive.
SADD, which has chapters at high schools and colleges across the country, works to decrease the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths and conducts programs stressing the dangers of drinking and driving.
"A lot of kids are alcoholics and don't realize it," said Louise Bailey, the school nurse. "They say, 'I only drink at parties' but they go to parties every other night. . . . They think they can handle it."
Students Julie Robertson and Angie Orr, both 17, organized the SADD chapter at Temple City High School two years ago after listening to speakers from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
"We listened to a woman who had lost her son and a guy who lost the use of both of his legs," said Robertson, a senior. "It was so emotional and we felt that something needed to be done."
SADD President Kathy Gallego, 16, said many students have been receptive to the club's efforts.
"Some think it's silly and believe there's no need for it," Gallego said. "But a lot of others think it's a good idea and are all for it and say it's a good cause."