The auditorium at Arabia Mountain High School erupted when 7’1”, 325-pound Shaquille O’Neal took the stage.
The larger-than-life, four-time NBA champion visited the east DeKalb County high school on April 3 to share some advice on driving safe on the roads.
“Believe me, I know how it is when you’re at the light and you’re in your whip and a cat rolls up on you and he’s disrespecting you, he steps on it and you want to step on it and keep going, but you can’t do it,” said O’Neal, a 15-time NBA All Star. “All that stuff will only get you in one of three places: in a hospital, in a jail or in a funeral home. So the big question is: Why risk it?”
The ex-NBA star’s advice was right on time for the teens who are looking forward to attending their upcoming prom at the Hellenic Community Center in Atlanta.
O'Neal joined attorneys from the DeKalb County District Attorney’s office at the school to talk to students about drunk driving and the legal implications of vehicular homicide as a part of DeKalb’s “Ghost Out” program. Chief Assistant District Attorney Nicole Golden invited O’Neal to the program. “Ghost Out” is a collaborative annual event that features speakers, reenactments and presentations designed to educate young drivers about various forms of distracted driving.
A wrecked vehicle was parked in front of Arabia High to give students a visual of what can happen as a result of driving drunk. The student also witnessed a mock trial in which Alexis Smoot, a 17-year-old Arabia Mountain student, played the role of a young woman who killed a friend while driving drunk and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“With prom on Friday, we want to make sure all our students are safe and understand how real the penalties can be when you make the mistake of drinking and driving,” said Arabia Mountain Principal Rodney Swanson. “We have about 435 students going to prom and we are glad we could have some positive mentors come to our school and share this much-needed message.”
Juwan Thompson, student body president, said “Shaq Diesel” was well received by students.
“This was the perfect opportunity for us to learn more about driving safe and Shaq was able to deliver that message in his own unique way,” said Thompson, an18-year-old senior who plans to attend Syracuse University in the fall. “Those pressures are always around, but if we remember what we learned today, I think we will all be OK.”