School struck with recent tragedies encourages students to make good choices on prom weekend

Published On: May 15 2013 03:45:09 PM EDT   Updated On: May 15 2013 08:46:57 PM EDT
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -

Menendez High School saw tragedy up close in its student body this year and doesn't want to face something like that again this weekend.

In January, 19-year-old Ryan Ford (pictured below on left) was beaten to death at a bonfire party. Days later, 18-year-old Jerad Revels (pictured below on right) was killed when the tractor he was driving overturned on him.

A wristband has been given to each junior and senior student attending their high school prom in St. Johns County that reads, "The choice is yours."

That choice is about how they celebrate the end of the school year.

Deputy Stacy Ettel spoke to students Wednesday, capturing their attention with laughter, then lowering the boom that drugs and alcohol as a party-aid wouldn't be worth it.

"It's my job to break things down, get you comfortable, then be honest," Ettel said. "I'm here because somebody drove down a little two-lane road and chose to put alcohol in their body, crossed that little four-inch painted line and killed my parents."

"Hearing the story about his family is really heart-touching, and I think that will let people know drinking, doing drugs, driving for prom isn't the right thing to do, and you can have fun without doing that," said Aleshial Foster, Miss Menendez.

"I know a lot of people probably planned on drinking this weekend," senior Taylor Sousa said. "The shock on their faces from the stories he was telling, I'm sure it changed their minds."

A year ago, Kyle Allen, a 2009 graduate of Menendez, died at his college. The Medical Examiner said it was an accident when Allen died from alcohol poisoning.

"In the past, we've had students here die, and it's made a big impact on our people," said Trevon Bryant, Mr. Menendez. "And so much love has been growing in our people. And I feel that story is going to be another push toward this school, making us better as a group."

"We've had some tragedy this year, with this senior class specifically," Principal Clay Carmichael said. "They're used to things that are serious. But they want to have a 'normal' senior year. And the tragic events we've had have pulled them closer together."