As long as it's been, it doesn't seem that long ago that I was in school. Twenty years ago I was stepping foot onto Clark Intermediate's campus as a 7th grade student and in 2002 I was graduating high school from Clovis High. During those 6 years I witnessed a multitude of presentations that were anti-drug/violence but only 1 through the those years has stuck with me to this day.

I remember a young man who was paralyzed that came to Clovis High School my freshman year. He rode in the back of a friends pick-up truck and the driver had been under the influence. His friend driving rear ended another car and the speaker slid across the bed of the truck and snapped his neck on the wall of the tall gate. His story was so powerful to me, when I say powerful I mean I have not ridden in the back of a pick-up since hearing his story. So why was his story so different than all of the other presentations? What made him so good? The reason his story stuck with me is the exact reason audiences find it so easy to connect with my story. 

This young man didn't tell us not to ride in the back of pick-up trucks, he told us his story. His story of being a normal kid that could do whatever he wanted when ever he wanted like most of us in the audience. This freedom changed with one choice he made to get in the back of a pick-up truck with friends who had been drinking. It was up to us in the audience to connect with the emotion of him being paralyzed as a result of his choice and make a connection in our own lives if that choice would ever be worth making ourselves. It worked, because I have never ridden in the back of a truck since and i've been given a few opportunities too but his story always persuaded me away from it. 

When I take the stage to give my presentation, students are likely preparing to hear a don't do drugs speech. So often schools bring in speakers who have not walked the path in which they are trying to educate and the students pick up on this and immediately pull out their phones or tune the speaker out of their heads. From the time I pick up the mic to the time I hand it off to administration the students are engaged in a real life story. A story of success, defeat, agony, depression, good times and bad times. Along the way, I insert critical blurbs passing down wisdom and instruction that can be applied in their own lives, helping them be successful. With all of the wild stories my life experiences have created, audiences struggle not paying attention the entire time. 

Been there. Done that. As I mentioned above, I am not an educator looking to spill substance abuse statistics and facts that students are not interested in. There are a multitude of speakers around the country that can give anti-drug/substance abuse awareness presentations but there is only a small handful that have walked the path of addiction, found great levels of success in recovery and can connect with young audiences through their personal journey. My biggest presence on the floor is my actual experience with drugs/alcohol and a relative look with young audiences. 

If you are planning a unforgettable Red Ribbon/Substance Abuse Awareness week, consider the above. My utmost passion is to impart a message/story that students keep in their hearts and minds for the rest of their lives, just as the young man in the wheelchair did to me. I've dedicated my life to making sure that as many people as I can reach understand that it only takes one small choice for your life to be changed forever. I hope you allow me to pass that message on to your students this year!