Former NBA player Chris Herren could shake defenders on the court while playing for the Celtics and the Nuggets, but he struggled shaking addiction. A couple years after his playing days were over, he made a fast break to sobriety.
Herren is one of the most sought-after speakers on the topic in the country and will be addressing students and parents of the North Shore School District about the dangers of and the ways to prevent addiction.
Thanks to the efforts of the North Shore Coalition Against Substance Abuse, Herren will be speaking to the entire high school in the auditorium on Feb. 15, while eighth-grade students will watch via live stream. He will later address parents at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. Parents are encouraged to attend to learn more about what they can do to ensure that their children don’t fall into the same traps Herren did.
Herren struggled throughout his college and NBA career with reliance on everything from cocaine to prescription painkillers to heroin. Sober since 2008, Herren has become an outspoken educator on addiction, specifically focused towards young people who are most at-risk for developing a reliance on substances.
Herren has spoken to over a million students and current and recovering addicts over the years.
“What’s interesting about his talk is that he tries to switch the focus of addiction from the last day to the first day,” Camardella said. “Chris Herren talks about the choices he made, like drinking the first red solo cup, the choice to smoke pot in high school, the first line of cocaine, and how those choices ended up haunting him for the long term and led to a life of addiction and dependency.”
The North Shore Athletics Booster Club, a community organization which works to provide support to the district’s athletic programs, also played a large part in getting the area’s support to get Herren to speak at North Shore High School.
Booster Club president Michael Conklin said the group always supported guest speakers coming to the school.
In the case of Herren, Conklin said they are especially excited to have him speak, not just because of his experiences as a professional athlete, but because he is able to speak to the underlying insecurities and confusion facing many young people that leads to substance dependence and abuse.
“We thought he would connect with our student-athletes, but also with the general population and the parents also,” Conklin explained. “Addiction is something that sneaks up on people, and him having this first-person experience makes him a pretty good resource for the students to learn from.”
Herren’s impact on students is well-recorded, as the district’s Director of Counseling Dan Doherty knows. Doherty has seen Herren speak three times before at Herricks Union Free School District and Garden City Union Free School District.
Doherty said he’s very impressed by Herren’s ability to connect with his audience. Following the pandemic, there was a spike in drug use by many young people across the country. This is a timely message.
“He’s the best substance prevention speaker that I’ve seen,” Doherty said. “Very motivational, very moving, very impactful. He really focuses on the decisions that people make early on in the process, which is so relevant to middle school and high school students.”
Camardella said that CASA and other local groups tried to get Herren to speak at the school for the last six years, but had been stymied by his fee.
Now, after several different fundraisers and working with organizations and people throughout the North Shore district, she says she and the rest of CASA just want to thank everyone for their help in making this happen.
“To me this has been the coalition at its finest, because North Shore CASA is only as strong as the community support that we have around us,” Camardella said.