April 30, 2019
For a couple days last month, school was a little quieter. Empty seats sprinkled the cafeteria and classrooms, and the hallways felt empty. We only had to miss our friends and peers for a few days, but for some, it’s forever.
Everyone knew someone participating in Shattered Dreams, revealing its scope and impact throughout Kingwood High School and the community. To know more about what it was like to be apart of the program, I asked Braden Hopkins a few questions.
What inspired you to be apart of Shattered Dreams?
When I first heard the announcement to join Shattered Dreams, I was initially very interested. At first, it was just another thing to be involved in at school, but then I took it upon myself to look up the program and find out more about it. After doing more research I knew that I really wanted to join and help make some sort of impact on the students at KHS.
What was it like to hear your own obituary read aloud? How did the people in your class react?
It was really peculiar to have my obituary read in front of the class. My dad wrote it for me and I started tearing up a bit knowing he would have to sit down and write that if I was actually gone. I was one of the first to be taken out that day, so many people were confused about what was going on. Some snickered at first, even I was a little looking at my friends. But I think it hit them when the reader started listing all of the family members that “survived” me. It just reminds you of how many people would be impacted by your death.
What was the most impactful activity you did at the overnight retreat?
It’s honestly so hard to pick, we did so many things that I will take with me into the rest of my life. A lot of guest speakers that had personal connections came to speak with us and share how they were affected by the deaths of their loved ones. But one of the activities that touched me the most was something not directly related to drunk driving. We were all given stars to tape on our backs, and everyone around you would write what they thought were your “star qualities”. I think the activity really helped me understand that even the littlest things you do have an impact on the people around you. A small smile, a wave, a nice comment, all have a tremendous effect on people. In the end the purpose was to help us understand that your presence is very important to the people around you, and that you will be missed tremendously if you were gone.
How did it feel to not have any communication with your friends and family?
It was pretty difficult. There were a lot of moments when I wanted to talk in class or to my friends, but I did my best to stay silent. The fact I couldn’t talk to my parents for a couple days really just made it feel more real for me. It’s easy to forget how much you rely on your friends and family.
You spoke at two of the four class assemblies. Was there a particular moment that inspired your speech?
During the retreat, we read a letter from our parents. My dad wrote mine. It made me cry a lot. It was about how much he loves me and how he would hurt if something were to happen to me. We forget how much we are loved by the people around us. I wanted my message to be accessible and understandable to my peers. I wanted people to realize that their actions are important and can have serious consequences. I wanted people to realize that they are worth making good decisions.
Did you expect people to have the reaction they did to your speech?
Some people came up to me afterwards saying they cried during it. I wasn’t really expecting people to cry, I didn’t think that my speech was that sad, but I was holding back tears during it. The assembly was really emotional overall, but I think the reaction that came out of so many people just showed the kind of impact that Shattered Dreams had.
What is your biggest takeaway from Shattered Dreams?
DON’T DRIVE DISTRACTED!! I know that’s cliche but it’s really true! It’s way easier to send a text later or answer a phone call later if that means you’re ensuring the safety of those around you. Also even though it’s easy to forget, remember how loved and cared for you are by the people around you and how much your existence is worth. Make good choices.