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Students Hope to Save Lives with Honored Video

Brooke Buchanan and Molly Growney admit they sort of assumed their teacher was giving them busy work when he assigned them a project at the end of last school year.

What they created took nearly four months to finish and earned them statewide recognition.

“(Neither) I, nor the girls, had any idea that the video was going to be entered in a contest,” Jeff Manders said. “Pretty cool. I’m proud of them.”

The contest is run by the Crime Prevention Association of Michigan, which is honoring the students for their video educating their younger peers on how to seek safety in the event of a fire or an active shooter. Brooke and Molly will receive the Outstanding Youth Project award Oct. 17 at the association’s annual conference in Traverse City.

The bigger reward, of course, will be if children’s lives are saved from the safety tips the video hammers home: “Get Out! Get Away! Get Help!”

“I want to give kids every potential option to make themselves safe,” said Deputy Tim Erhardt, a school resource officer for Kenowa Hills Public Schools. “If you are in a dangerous scenario, be it a fire or active shooter, I want to give them that mindset that doors are not the only ways out of rooms or buildings.”

The video shows students how to escape through a window if exiting by a door isn’t possible. It is to be shown in tandem with a lesson plan developed by Carly Glanzman, an elementary school physical education teacher for Kenowa Hills. The five-minute video was first shown recently to third-graders at Kenowa’s Central Elementary School, who then practiced going out a window and telling a police officer about the emergency.

“It was awesome, absolutely fantastic,” Erhardt said of the session. “The kids loved it. They picked up exactly why we were doing it.”

Deputy Tim Erhardt is based at Kenowa Hills High School as the district’s school resource officer

Perfect Pair for the Job

Erhardt plans to show the video to every Kenowa elementary school grade that agrees to see it, and hopes other districts will pick it up as well. Some other school resource officers in Kent County districts have asked to see it.

The video took root when Erhardt last spring approached fellow resource officers with the idea. Deputy Jim Svoboda, the Forest Hills officer, recommended Manders, a TV broadcast, film & media communication teacher with whom Erhardt had previously worked on a program about distracted driving. Erhardt said Manders told him, “I’ve got the perfect kids for that.”

Manders handed the project to Molly and Brooke, and they worked directly with Erhardt and Svoboda to produce one.

“That was so cool, getting to work directly with a client,” Brooke said.

The pair said they were given minimal guidelines for the project besides to incorporate the terms “Get Out! Get Away! Get Help!” more than once, and to make it kid-friendly.

They retreated to Brooke’s house to write the script, turning it around to Erhardt days later. “As soon as I read the script I was like, that’s exactly what I’m looking for,” Erhardt said.

They started filming about a week later at a vacant Lowell-area house slated to be used for firefighter training, and at Central Woodlands Elementary. The cast included Ada Township Fire-Rescue Chief David Murray, sheriff’s deputies Joy Matthews and Ryan Roe, and Forest Hills students Cameron Tack and Camden Svoboda. Brooke took on a role as a teacher when no real teachers volunteered.

Editing took about eight hours, Molly recalled. And in the end, “It came together better than we thought it would,” she said.

“It’s more directed to a young audience, so it’s not scary,” Brooke said. “I don’t want to call it ‘cheesy…'”

Added Molly: “It is a little cheesy.”

“But it’s still serious enough that the kids will take it seriously,” Brooke said.

Erhardt certainly hopes they will — and that they will remember it if a real emergency happens. “The kids now know, ‘I can do it, I did it before.'”

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio or email Charles.

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