Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mark Sterner addressed the student body of all four Glenbard High Schools and gave a presentation to parents on Feb 19 as part of Live Life Well Week


            The video is grainy and sometimes out of focus.  But it does the job. Memorializing the last time Mark Sterner would spend time laughing and enjoying his friends. Fifteen minutes after the video filming ended so did the lives of his three friends.

            In an emotionally charged GPS presentation on February 19th at Glenbard North, Mark Sterner recounted the last night of a spring break trip to Florida. He was twenty-one, in college and enjoying a trip that millions of college students have experienced.

            Sterner and four close friends spent the week on Sanabel Island relaxing and drinking. They had rented a Towne car and even though they had been drinking at the condo where they were staying, they decided to make one last trip to a bar.

            For the last five days one guy would volunteer as the designated driver, but this was the sixth night. They had all taken their turn. So they decided that the “least drunk person” would drive. Sterner was chosen.

            On the way home the car skidded partially off of the road. Sterner tried to compensate but was going way too fast. The car careened across the median and off the road hitting a tree. All five passengers were thrown from the car.

            Adam, 22, Jim, 23, and Pete 22 were pronounced dead at the scene. Darren, 21 survived. Sterner, almost losing his life had multiple injuries and was in and out of consciousness for two weeks. They were two miles away from the condo when the accident occurred.

            Sterner’s parents stood by his hospital bedside crying as the police arrested and charged him with three counts of DUI manslaughter. Sterner faced up to 45 years in prison. The parents of his deceased friends lobbied the court for a reduced sentence. They did not want to see Sterner spend the majority of his life in prison. He wound up serving three years in a maximum-security prison fearing for his life every single day of those three years.

            For several years now Sterner has traveled the country city to city school to school to tell students, faculty and parents his story, not to preach, but simply to let them know that it isn’t always “the other guy.” If you drink and drive you risk ending up like him and his friends. And there is no prison worse than Sterner’s own mind. Every day he endures the pain of those tragic consequences. For those in his audience all we have to do is listen to learn the lesson.

Suzanne Burdett is a freelance writer and a Glenbard parent