MANCHESTER — Former Celtics player Chris Herren’s talk about battling drug addiction and stories he’s heard about other families’ struggles drove a Manchester High School Central student to run crying out of the school assembly Friday.
Herren then scolded classmates who snickered at her exit.
“I can’t believe I just watched a little girl walk out of here crying that way and I watched kids laugh like she was a joke.” Herren told students in the school auditorium.
“Imagine, there are kids in here right now that know Christmas is different because of drugs,” Herren said. “Your birthday parties are different because of drugs. Your clothes are different because of drugs, and yet you have the audacity to laugh at a girl who has the courage to cry in front of classmates.”
Herren, drug-free since 2008, addresses about 250 assemblies a year around the country, discussing how he refocused his life to put sobriety and his family as his top priorities.
The Fall River, Mass., native said the first of two Central assemblies he spoke at Friday was “one of the most emotional assemblies that I’ve ever done.”
Sniffling from students could be heard during the second assembly.
A video Herren narrated tracked his life and how at a news conference to announce his arrival with the Celtics, he focused more on meeting his OxyContin dealer afterward. He played only two years in the NBA, including the 2000-01 season with Boston.
“We should be able to teach our children the ability to communicate and be transparent and communicate their struggle or their strength and if we empower them at a young age, by the time they get to high school, they’ll be so comfortable with expressing what they’re struggling with,” Herren said in an interview.
Former Boston Celtics basketball player Chris Herren engages students during a presentation
He said students should be taught about wellness “day one” and that access to health care and treatment is a key to helping the addicted become sober.
He called Manchester’s Safe Stations program, which allows addicts to head to a city fire station for help without fear of being arrested, a “beautiful” idea.
Students attending the first assembly said Herren’s talk mattered.
“It was a beautiful presentation,” said freshman Leah Lyonnais, 14. “I made sure never to go down the wrong path.”
Freshman Rakiatou Konate, 14, called the message “heart touching. It was real sad. When I see my friends make bad decisions, I’ll be there for them.”
Tastryanna Bennitt, 17 and a senior, said: “It made me rethink decisions I made. Made me want to influence my sisters more in a good way.”
And sophomore Femi Fatukasi, 15, said: “It meant for me everyone can change in life.”
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