Steered Straight: LCCTC Welcomes Michael DeLeon
Did you know that the #1 cause of death is as a result of drug overdose?
Did you know that the life expectancy has actually decreased for the last four years in a row?!
Did you know that 90% of all inmates have admitted to have struggles with alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana?
Brought to us through the Hoyt Foundation, today, Michael DeLeon, founder of Steered Straight and Stay in Your Lane Media, came to LCCTC to share his story with the message: “Don’t let my past become your future!”
His first piece of advice: TALK ABOUT IT! No matter what it is, tell someone if you’re hurting. Mr. DeLeon’s story included divorce, abuse, and pent-up anger which led to his initial choice to turn to drugs instead of talking about his troubles — and he takes full responsibility. As a great supporter of vocational education, he reminds the students, “You are in a good place in career and technical education because you have selected to graduate with an ‘edge’ in your skill.”
He also told the students that their choices reflect their life — their health, their future, and their family. It can be a positive choice or a negative one; in his case, it was negative. Because of his choice to turn to nicotine, he ended up with cancer from this addiction. Because of his prison record, he was denied a presidential award, but even more sobering was how his choices affected his family: Because of his turn to drug-related gang activity, he his mother was murdered on Mother’s Day, and because of his drug addiction, his own beautiful wife and daughter were assaulted and held at gunpoint.
“My wife was married to an addict for five years and an inmate for twelve,” he stated. “It wasn’t fair for her, and I almost lost it all, but don’t feel sorry for me — it was my choice.”
He asked the kids to raise their hands if they knew of a middle or high school friend who was going through something. The hands went up.
“No one wants to become an addict,” he told them. “Nobody starts a life with everything — a beautiful house, a great car, a ‘smokin’ hot wife’ (insert students’ giggles here), a beautiful family — and then loses it all to addiction, but I did.” It took many years, many arrests, and a lot of time in rehab/jail/therapy/and self-reliance. His rocky road hasn’t been easy, but he now gets literal goosebumps over that same beautiful wife, beams about how proud he is of his kids, and simply gushes about his incredible grandchildren. His conviction: To pass the message to kids that they need to “Steer Straight” and “Stay in their Lane” with their choices.
“How many of you know of a middle or high school friend who drinks alcohol?” The hands went up. “Who smokes or chews?” The hands went up. “Who vapes?” The hands went up. Projected on the wall were these statistics he refers to as “The Tri-fecta Gateway”:
One-half of the tobacco consumed in America is consumed by people with substance use disorder or mental illness.
Eighty percent of the alcohol in America is consumed by twenty percent of the drinkers.
Marijuana is 600% stronger than it was just five years ago, and the average initiation for youth is smoking concentrates through pipes (BHO) and vapes or e-cigarettes.
He reminds the students that drugs “limit opportunities, puts limitation in your life, destroy lives, kill dreams, kill, and lie.” He pleads with them, “Don’t lie to yourself!”
“The strategy of the big tobacco companies has been the strategy of vapes and e-cigarettes: Target kids and get them hooked,” he stated.
He went on to tell the kids that the third leading cause of death has now become respiratory disorders. The cases of popcorn lung are on the rise. Vapes and e-cigarettes do not help people quit smoking; there is no control at what this un-regulated industry puts into vapes and e-cigarettes.
“I am frightened about what is out there for you because I care for you like I do m own children.”
His final plea: “Don’t let my past become your future.”
Did he change minds today? Perhaps. But the student body did listen to his message, and perhaps — just perhaps, they will become “Steered Straight.”