NHS Students and Staff Touched By Chris Herren’s Appearance


NHS photo

Before Herren’s appearance, students sat down to watch a documentary of Herren’s talks around the world.

Genieva Pawlowski and Izzy DiNunzio

WOODBURY — High school students around the world are accustomed to hearing talks about drug addicts and alcoholism, and the point of view is always the same: Don’t do drugs, don’t drink, make good choices.

On March 17, Nonnewaug students were blessed with a different point of view on the matter. Chris Herren, former Boston Celtics basketball star, now a public speaker supporting his cause, came to NHS and left students with a lot to think about.

Focus on the First Day, Not the Worst Day

Herren battled drug and alcohol abuse for most of his college and professional experience. After his heroin overdose in 2008, Herren wanted to change for the better for his family and friends. He has been sober ever since and has now created the Herren Project. 

“He recognized what his impact was on his children and he put an effort in to fix it and to make sure he was in his children’s lives after all the years he missed,” says Mia Santos, a junior.  “It was just nice to hear somebody who understands what they put their kids through.”

According to the Herren Project, they have a mission to help people through their recovery. “It is our mission to support, inspire and empower those affected by substance use disorder,” the mantra states.  

The Herren Project functions in offering free support groups and meetings online for not just individuals and family members who struggle with substance abuse. Herren has inspired and helped many through their journey. 

“I really liked how he said we focus on the worst time instead of the first time,” sophomore Sage Samuelson said about Herren’s motto, “because addiction can start around this age.” 

‘I’m Coming At You, Homeboy’

Since the last time Herren stepped foot on NHS grounds his presentation has changed. Instead of telling his story, he now shows his audience what their story could be with the wrong choices.

“If you have a younger brother or sister, they look up to you,” said Herren. “Would you want them doing the things that some of you do?”

Students of NHS give their full attention to Herren as he talks about previous schools and audiences he has attended. (NHS photo)

Many students were touched by this sentence; there was an immediate silence across the gymnasium.

“It opened my eyes to how bad drugs are,” said Maddison Innes, a junior at NHS.

Herren was able to talk to students about what happens at his treatment center and reach new levels of understanding for most. 

One of the stories he shared about was marijuana psychosis. This case happened at his wellness center. It was uncertain if they would recover,” says Innes. “This surprised me because everyone looks at marijuana as the ‘safe’ drug.”

Students were impacted by the conversation and even wished it continued.

“He was talking about the girl who cut herself. It stood out to me because it relates to the problems of our generation. Most of our generation battle mental illnesses,” says Ryan Wicklund, a junior. “He talked about how alcoholism affects family and coping methods, but he should have talked about eating disorders [as well].” 

Touching all corners of an engaged gymnasium, Herren was able to discuss many issues of our generation and showed them that they had a choice to do well or fail. 

Wicklund acknowledged that the students at Nonnewaug have a lot in common after stories were shared from a select few during the presentation. 

“I need to be better than I am now,” says Wicklund, “but it’s a good thing I never did drugs in high school, so that’s something.” 

Samuelson was especially touched by Herren’s visit.

“I had an anxiety attack,” Samuelson said, “because it really hit home for me.” 

Many students related to Samuelson’s claim. They were overwhelmed with the presentation and the emotions brewing before it.

“I was worried, because I knew for a fact it was going to bring up emotions,” says Santos.

Overall students and staff were touched by the words Herren spoke and listened to everything he had to say. The presentation was a success and students were glad they listened to what they thought would be “just another drug presentation.”