The Central High School ninth-graders watched two of their teachers limp into the school's gymnasium with bandages, a cane and a walker.
Another teacher wobbled about in that unmistakable, arms-out stance that indicates a really bad sunburn. Still another had his head wrapped in bandages.
They were a sad-looking lot trying to make a point: Students can get hurt in summer accidents.
The students were finishing a unit on summer safety and the assembly was the culminating activity to impress upon them that there are ways to reduce the chance of injuries.
The main speaker of the assembly was the Hernando County Fire Rescue District assistant Chief Frank DeFrancesco. He addressed problems that the youngsters could face during the carefree weeks ahead.
His No. 1 rule was to go everywhere in pairs or in a small group. He strongly advised letting someone know where they are going. He told the students to check water depth before diving. "Use common sense," he said.
He addressed the use of helmets while on four-wheelers. "The worst part of my job is picking people up after hitting a tree," DeFrancesco said. "The trees always win."
He also recommended helmets for horse riding.
DeFrancesco strongly suggested using sunscreen. "Skin cancer is a pretty nasty disease," he said. Another outdoor tip: avoid overheating. "You need to drink a lot of water."
He also commented on learning to drive, working with tools (use safety goggles) and how to deal with undertow and riptides at the beach. And, as with all-terrain vehicles, when using personal watercraft be aware of the surroundings. "Guess what?" he said. "The bridge wins."
He touched on hunting (always have an adult around when handling weapons) and fishing, cautioning the students about flying fishhooks.
After DeFrancesco, school resource officer Deputy Debra Miles reminded students about bicycle and cyber safety. "Avoid cyber bullying," she said. "If you threaten someone over e-mail (or) text messaging, it's a crime and you can be arrested."
After the assembly, three students commented on what they had learned during the safety unit. Chris Amstead, 16, was impressed with some of DeFrancesco's words. "Whenever you're out and about," he said, "try to be with someone else and tell someone where you're going and who you'll be with."
Donny Vanslee, 15, said, "I learned when you go places bring a buddy or partner so if you get in trouble, you can call somebody."
Jenny Mongelluzzo, 15, had a very personal interest in what DeFrancesco had to say. She lost a friend in an all-terrain vehicle accident. "I liked how they talked about the safety."
Reading teacher Jill Rossetti explained that the summer safety unit was an interdisciplinary program and ninth-graders are particularly susceptible to accidents. "We have to warn them," she said.