The Mountain Times

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Aaron Cooksey engages GMC students with personal storyasd

Just once. That is all it takes. Aaron Cooksey unfortunately learned this lesson the hard way during his college career when the vehicle that he was driving one night was involved in a serious accident claiming the life of his best friend and dramatically changing his life forever.

The story actually began as Cooksey was about to begin his collegiate career as a football player. A month before the first game, he tore the ACL ligament in his knee and for the first time in his life had idle time where he was not directly involved in sports. It was at this time that Cooksey was introduced to alcohol and started an unhealthy ritual of drinking and driving.

The night of this fatal accident, Cooksey had been drinking and his decision to get behind the wheel proved to be one that would change his life and others' forever.

After serving four years in prison and piecing his life back together, Cooksey has emerged from his own path of self-destruction with a message for young college students - drop your pride.  The message serves as the title for his alcohol awareness program which advocates against drinking and driving.

The story is an engaging one because it, unlike many videos shown to young people, is real and it is being told by the person himself. During his story, Cooksey is adamant about one thing. He does not want people to clap for his story, self-admitting that he has done terrible things. The irony of the situation is what he has decided to do as a consequence of his actions is incredibly applaudable.

"Aaron is doing a very respectable thing," related senior Casey McGill. "He is owning up to his actions and he isn't asking for applause or attention, but rather he is speaking in an attempt to prevent it from happening to others, and I find that extremely responsible of him."

McGill's words carry some credence as this was a choice Cooksey made as a way to move forward with his life. The situation certainly could have spurred him on to continue more destructive behaviors.

Junior Luke Carey agreed by stating, "While Mr. Cooksey's actions certainly had serious repercussions for both himself and many around him, I believe it is commendable that he has taken the experience and learned from it, and by talking to us, is trying to educate others as well."

Gone is Cooksey's ability to drive a vehicle again. Gone is his dream of teaching in the public school system. Many doors have been closed off as a result of his one mistake that night. To his credit he continues to share a very difficult story in hopes that others can avoid making the same one he did. The attending Green Mountain students were very thankful for that fact.

"I'm so glad that Aaron was able to come and speak to the students," said senior Chelsea Paul. "I think that this subject is one of great importance for us as college students and as young adults, but unfortunately is one that is delivered to us in typically

ineffective ways. Aaron's account was moving and effective because he was someone we could relate to; he was just like all of us. The fact that he is willing to relive such a horrific moment of his past in order to prevent others from having to experience the same tragedy is incredibly brave."

In his dramatic closing Aaron tosses his keys and walks off the stage quietly. It is an apt metaphor just like his program's title "Drop Your Pride" meaning drop your keys after you have had a drink.

As posted on Cooksey's website, 999 out of 1,000 times, nothing bad may happen. The one time it does, it changes everything.