Speaker shows local teens how life can change in an instant

HARLINGEN – What would Devin Rosas do if he couldn’t run track?

The dark and foreboding gravity of the thought swept across his face.

The Harlingen High School senior had just heard the “Living Proof” presentation by Sarah Panzau Evans.

The presentation, which she gives throughout the United States, is sponsored by Anheuser-Busch and L&F Distributors.

She gave the presentation to students at both HHS and Harlingen High School South.

Tuesday morning she stood in the gym at HHS, facing the students with stern warmth as she spoke about surviving a drunken driving accident that took her left arm.

She’d been a star volleyball player.

“I take full responsibility for my actions,” she told students in the bleachers.

She emphasized repeatedly the importance of every student to take responsibility for their action and, indeed, possess the power of that responsibility making right choices.

“There’s something special in every single one of you,” she said. “Let’s just say we are going out tonight. You’re making a choice. Let’s just say alcohol is involved.”

She spoke more about this scenario and asked students what they would do if they were drinking and needed a way home that would be safe.

Would they be willing to call their parents?

An even more disconcerting question: Would their parents want them to?

“You would be surprised,” she said with a sharp nod. “Go home and ask your mom and dad and I bet they’ll say yes.”

Three members of the girls’ volleyball team at HHS said the moment she said she was a volleyball player they connected with her. The possibility of being injured an unable to play volleyball hit them hard.

“I would be devastated,” said Kirsten Kattan, 15, a sophomore. “That’s what you would lose.”

“It’s an eye-opener,” said Taegan Dickey, 15. “It would be really upsetting. I love to play.”

That’s why, they said, if they were in a situation in which they needed a ride home, they would call their parents, if nothing else, protect their game.

The prospect of losing his athletic ability also hit Devin, 18, pretty hard.

“Athletics has been my life,” said Devin, a senior. “If that was taken away from me …”

His voice trailed off as he shook his head.

Evans had reached the students on many levels. The absence of her left arm was impossible to miss, yet it was easy to forget. She’d quickly won their respect with her warm and powerful demeanor.

One moment she would be speaking to students about her own tragedy from drunk driving and comparing it to their lives. The next minute she would tell them about her dogs, one of them named Maximus after the main character in “Gladiator.”

“It was great,” said Bryanna Hall, 15.

Evans had invited the sophomore down from the bleachers to speak with her.

“She really inspired me that I should think before I do anything, think about my parents,” she said.

Something that caught her attention was the importance of taking care of yourself and making your own decisions.

You never know for sure if you can even count on your friends to help you.

But the speaker was quick to point out there are still some people you can trust, like her husband of five years. They met on eHarmony.

“Today is our fifth wedding anniversary,” she said with a smile, drawing a round of applause from the students and faculty.