"In a matter of seconds your life can change," commented a local Grade 12 student after experiencing "The Smart Youth Power Assembly" by motivational speaker Norbert Georget, encapsulating the message that the former paramedic was trying to get across.
Georget spoke to both public and Catholic junior high students at the Weyburn Junior High School and high school students at the Weyburn Comprehensive on February 7 about the dangers of drinking, using drugs and texting while driving. Georget presented powerful, real images from his days as a Saskatoon paramedic to grab the attention of students.
Grade 12 student Louis Schnell said that the presentation was gruesome and eye-opening.
"It seemed very real," said Schnell.
During the presentation, Georget showed videos displaying the effects of drinking and driving, texting and driving, and crystal meth use. He even used special effects, often used at rock concerts, to get their attention. One video, showing a tearful mother speaking about the day police told her that her son had committed suicide after battling a crystal meth habit, had many viewers in tears.
Georget even used props to get his message across to the students. At one point in the presentation, he asked a student to help him open up a body bag. He explained that the bag had contained the body of a 17-year-old Saskatchewan student who had died in a drinking and driving accident nearly 20 years ago. Georget fought back tears as he explained to students that he had spoken to the deceased teen's school only three weeks before the teen made the decision to drink and drive.
"We're not born losers, we're born choosers," Georget emphasized throughout the presentation. "We have a choice not to drink, not to do drugs, not to drive."
As a paramedic for 10 years, Georget had many examples of fatal drinking and driving accident scenes he had attended to share with students. And he has been sharing these experiences across Canada and the U. S. for 28 years, speaking to 1.8 million youth.
"I don't know how many I've saved, but the ones I do hear about are in the papers because of a fatality," said Georget. "I stopped counting those ones years ago."
Georget said that it is just as important to speak about driving safety to students at the high school level, many of which are driving, as it is to junior high students.
"You have got to speak to this age group because they are at that deciding age, determining what's right and wrong," said Georget. "When people tell me that Grade 9 students aren't drinking and doing drugs, they are wrong."
Grade 9 student Maddi Epp said that the presentation was touching and inspirational.
"I believe it is a good message to get out there now," said Epp. "Grade 9 students going into the Comp next year need to learn about these effects of drugs and alcohol and what can happen."
Georget gave students several examples of the impact his presentations have had on students throughout the country. He showed off various articles given to him by students vowing to quit smoking and doing drugs after witnessing his presentation. He displayed cigarette lighters and candy containers once filled with pills to the students, apparent testaments that his presentation had swayed youth to change their lives.
Georget has changed his traditional presentation to include one of the newest threats to young drivers - text messaging while driving. He told students that 500 Canadians were killed in 2009 as a result of texting while driving.
"Texting and driving is becoming one of the biggest killers in Canada," said Georget.
During the presentation, Georget asked students how many of their parents still use handheld devices, such as cell phones, while they were driving, despite being recently outlawed in Saskatchewan.
"Nearly half the kids put their hands up, that's scary," said Georget.
After the presentation, Georget sold stickers with phrases, "It's OK not to drink" and "It's OK not to do drugs." Proceeds from the sale of these items go to the Kid's Help Phone.
"The Smart Youth Assembly" was brought to the city by the Weyburn Credit Union.