It came as a complete surprise for Angela Ott when she was presented with a bouquet of appreciation at the conclusion of this year’s Every 15 Minutes drama focused on saving the lives of Manteca area teens.
Ott has long worked as an emergency medical technician (EMT) for Manteca Ambulance as well as in its business office on Center Street. She is currently the co-chair of the non-profit E-15 and has been a passionate supporter of the program for the last 14 years.
She and other first responders in the community from police to firefighters have personally witnessed the horrors caused by drivers under the influence killing and maiming innocent victims.
Ott remembers when it all started in Manteca in 1994 when Doug Satterfield, a paramedic from Manteca Ambulance went to Chico and viewed its Every 15 Minutes in its infancy. A year later the first E-15 was held at Manteca High School with a daytime student retreat at Lincoln Park behind the elementary school of the same name on East Yosemite Avenue. Its goal was and continues to be the discouraging of drinking and driving by teens around their graduations.
In those early couple of years the Manteca Fire Department was designated as school site coordinators, doing the jobs the police department is now assigned to organize.
The first dramatic crash was held that year in the Manteca High stadium. Ott explained that the first grants to support the program came from Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). In 1999 the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) took over from ABC and the California Highway Patrol was the oversight agency as they are today.
Manteca High School saw the addition of East Union and with the building of Sierra High School plus Calla High in 2002 under the added leadership of Caroline Thibodeau. Weston Ranch and Lathrop High stand alone with their own E-15 productions. There were over 1,200 seniors sitting in the stands April 24 for the most recent Every 15 Minutes held at the MHS stadium. A retreat was held at Crossroads Church and the funeral on Lathrop Road the following day at Calvary Community Church. Motivational speakers are involved as well.
Ott noted there is one E-15 event every week from the middle of January until the end of May reaching thousands of graduating seniors. Stockton Unified School District, Tracy, Lodi, Ripon and Ripon Christian have their own independent programs guided by OTS and the CHP.
“From my very first year the involvement in the community, it has grown with so many more volunteers like the P.L. Fry & Son Mortuary,” Ott said. “Last year Sierra High School posted a signup list for those wanting to be involved,” she added. “This year we have 137 on the signup list – and we only take 35, proving the program’s popularity.”
One of the first days she joined the staff at Manteca Ambulance, its general manager Dana Solomon said he wanted to show her something taking her to the MHS stadium to witness an E-15 event. The tarps were being taken off the vehicles in the scripted collision – she was hooked.
Ott was in an accident at 16 – the invincible kid convinced nothing could happen to her – much like the audience of Every 15 Minutes presentations.
Following her first Every 15 Minutes experience she said that parents would come up to her and say how amazing the lesson was for them and for their teenagers.
“I would see them later in the grocery stores and they would say the event had changed their lives and added they would call for a ride when they went out to dinner,” Ott said.
“I get excited when the event comes together after 10 months of preparation and for what you get from the kids. I’m ready to go for the next year,” she said. “One mom told me that when her daughter went to college she started a designated driver program after having been exposed to E-15.”
At this year’s event CHP officer Patrick Naves noted he had gone through Every 15 Minutes in high school and his dad was one of the parents on stage reading a letter of grief to his son.
Funding for the program comes from the OTS grants of $10,000 per school but that only covers certain basics. Other merchandise items including clothing and food can add another $6,000 that comes from sponsors throughout the community.
Ott said the committee putting on the event has to live within the budget they establish from their shrimp feed. They are also responsible for the breakfast, lunch and dinner for all the students involved in the program, she noted.
The E-15 Committee includes Caroline Thibodeau and Francisca Montez, of the MUSD Health Services, Sean Cavin, Eva Steele, April Smith and Ron Inderbitzen of Manteca High School. They hold their meetings at the Manteca Unified School District Health Services office at the old Lindbergh Elementary School site on East North Street.