Since November, students at Apalachee High School have been hard at work filming a movie which demonstrates how a bad decision can have catastrophic consequences.
The movie, entitled “The Difference One Night Can Make” is part of the school’s annual “Ghost Out” event. Apalachee High School’s resource officer, Dep. Scott Yoder, is the event organizer.
For the past five years, Yoder has worked to help students make better decisions and stay safe behind the wheel.
This year’s Ghost Out is a weeklong event designed to increase awareness of the dangers of driving while intoxicated, but also covers other dangerous driving behaviors such as texting and driving.
In years past, the event has focused on prescription drugs, marijuana, alcohol and racing, Yoder said.
The highlight of this year’s event is an hour long movie which tells the story of five students whose lives are forever changed after a night of drinking at a post prom party.
During Ghost Out week, students at Apalachee High School will have the opportunity to watch the movie with their classmates and participate in other educational activities designed to promote safe driving.
Yoder, a former member of the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office traffic unit, knows all too well how dangerous driving behaviors can have devastating consequences. Once he became the school resource officer at Apalachee High School, Yoder decided to use his expertise to help teen drivers make better choices.
“When I first came over [to AHS] from the traffic unit, it didn’t take me long to realize that I had kids there that I had arrested for DUI, underage drinking and marijuana,” he explained. “They were some of the kids in the beginning that I hand-picked to do this program. That’s how we really got started.”
Yoder said those students did such a good job that subsequent classes were motivated to surpass what the previous classes had accomplished.
“The kids have challenged each other to expand the message and it’s just kept going on and on to where we are today,” he said. “It has been amazing how these kids have taken ownership of this program and want to make it theirs and make it the best.”
Putting together an hour long movie is no easy feat.
Approximately 50 students have participated in filming the movie. Altogether, students have spent well in excess of 40 hours planning, writing and filming the movie.
Most of the participants are seniors, but several underclassmen have assisted as part of a media class offered by the high school.
Students will be working throughout the month of March to edit over 12 hours of raw footage into the movie which will be shown the week before AHS’ April 3 prom.
The students are not alone in their efforts though. Financing such a large production has required help from the community – help which Yoder said has been surprisingly easy to come by.
“What’s interesting is that when I go around and talk to people in the community, it’s amazing to me how people get on the same page so fast,” he said. “They say if you save one person’s life, then it was all worth it.”
Barrow Regional Medical Center, All-Around Towing, Smith Funeral Home, the Georgia Club, Publix, Arby’s and Ingles are just some of the local businesses which have offered assistance.
“The list goes on and on and on of people who have helped us,” Yoder said.
Some of the businesses that have aided in the production efforts will also be featured in the film.
A portion of the film was shot at The Georgia Club which offered use of its facilities for the prom scene.
“We had approximately 100 kids show up,” Yoder said. “We got some very good footage from there.”
Smith Funeral Home also helped out with the mock prom.
“The Sheriff and Smith Funeral Home donated the use of their limousine and the Sheriff was our limousine driver,” Yoder said. “It was really awesome.”
Also, several scenes were filmed at Barrow Regional Medical Center.
“When we filmed at the hospital, it was very, very intense because we had the actual parents of the students there,” Yoder said. “Their emotions took over and it was real to them and their message was that if they can prevent parents from having to deal with this in real life then it was worth it.”
Yoder said even though he has been present for each scene as it was filmed, he was still moved when he watched the footage.
“I watched a couple of scenes from the hospital and found myself tearing up,” he said. “It’s as real as it can be.”
While schools across the country participate in annual Ghost Out events, Apalachee High School is unique in their efforts.
“I don’t know of any other school that has gone to the extent we have,” Yoder said.
The Ghost Out has been very successful so far. According to Sgt. Cecil Kidd, head of the crime prevention unit at the Sheriff’s Office, there has not been a single DUI or drug related accident on prom night since the program began.
“It’s very, very impressive,” Kidd said. “There is no other school in the United States that does what we do.”
Though pleased with the program’s success to date, Yoder said he tries not to think about the statistics.
“I don’t like looking at numbers,” he said. “I just say a prayer for them every prom.”
A premier will be held on Saturday, April 3 at 3 p.m. for all the students and community members who have been involved in the making of the film.
“When you watch this movie, you are going to be very impressed with what these kids have done,” Yoder said.
For more information, contact Dep. Yoder at the Barrow County Sheriff’s Office 770-307-3080.
Interested - contact Deputy Yoder at the Sheriff's Dept. I worked with him to get the taping at the hospital done. He said that churches and other school districts have requested the DVD from past years as well.