Since 2013, heroin overdoses have been the leading cause of unnatural deaths in Virginia. Heroin isn’t just an issue here in Virginia, it’s also becoming a nationwide epidemic.
This makes the message of reformed heroin addict and former Boston Celtics player, Chris Herren, even more influential. Herren came back for the second year in a row on Nov. 29 to share the story about his struggle with opioid addiction and how he found the strength to get clean.
Last year, Superintendent Dr. Jeck suggested bringing Herren to Kettle Run to share his story and after a positive response to his presentation last year, Herren was asked back to speak sophomores and juniors.
“When Chris spoke at the schools last year, the response to the assemblies was truly powerful,” the Director of Communications for the PATH Foundation, Amy Petty, said. “Many students reached out to him and The Herren Project looking for help for themselves, a friend or family member. We think the overall well-being of students is so important, and we believe that investing in having Chris speak is meaningful way to reach students who will relate to his message.
“Our goal is to have him speak to sophomores and juniors graders one year, and the following school year speak to 7th and 8th graders. This way, students will hear his talk every three years to ensure his message is repeated to them,” Petty continued.
His message resonated with students and teachers alike. Many appreciated his dedication to sharing his message to children.
“We all learn from each other’s experiences. Listening to other people makes them not feel alone,” Vice Principal, Lashonda Reed said. “Hearing how people overcame their experiences makes some people feel encouraged. Sometimes the message can be for now and sometimes it could be for later. But you’ll always have that reference. His message can impact all ages, races, demographics. I don’t think his message is only for the youth, but because he induced so much as a young person, it may seem that way. It is probably more beneficial to the youth, but can help people of all ages.”
“His message really made me think about how many of my peers are affected or will be affected by drugs in their lifetime, and we need to support everyone and let them know they’re not alone,” junior Emma Delany said. “The biggest thing to me was how many people struggle from drug addiction and how important it is to be aware of your friends and loved ones and what they’re going through. I enjoyed how realistic he was and the fact that he’s been through the absolute worst, yet he overcame it and is now spreading awareness all over the country of how you can overcome anything is really awesome.”
Herrens speech forced students to see the real-life effects of drug addiction, which made them think about the harmful effects drugs could have on their own lives.
“Chris Herren’s speech really got me thinking about all the harmful drugs that can affect you in life. The lesson I learned was drugs are not worth it,” sophomore Garrett Ritter said. “I really like when Chris Herren explains his life stories, I find them very interesting.”
Each student took something different away from Herren’s presentation.
“I took away that addiction is hard to overcome and lives are lost everyday to it,” junior Eevy Gordon said, “I enjoyed that he cares about us and wants the best for us. He inspired me to talk to people who may be suffering. It also helped me to understand that no one is alone in the struggle.”
“We hope that students will take to heart the message of how important it is to have the right people around you to support and listen to you,” Petty said. ”And he’s spot on that the staff at the schools genuinely care about the students, and they want to be able to help them when things get tricky. And if nothing else, we hope if gets students taking a closer look at decisions they’re making and why they’re making them.”
For students who missed out on this presentation this year, they can look forward to seeing him come back again next year.
“No matter how hard life gets, you can always recover. But first, you have to acknowledge that there is a problem and have to be willing to work to resolve it,” Reed said.
For more information about Chris Herren and The Herren Project visit their website, https://theherrenproject.org/.