Herren’s presentation will stun

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by Haley Verre
Staff Writer

For the first time at Westford Academy, the entire school will have the chance to listen to former basketball star Chris Herren on December 16 during D and E blocks. Herren came to the school last year to talk to the seniors, but is back to share his story on his road to recovery from years of substance abuse.

Since the last visit from Herren, the school now participates in Project Purple, an organization that helps people recover from drug addiction. Health and Wellness teacher Melanie Jozokos runs the Project Purple at Westford Academy and believes Herren’s story will inspire students to be participants.

Jozokos says she wants to spread Project Purple’s message because the people who run it “will do anything for anyone who needs help.”

Senior Annie Livorsi says she joined Project Purple because she has seen the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol, especially with family members, and she does not want the same to happen to her.

Livorsi said students should expect to hear the harsh truth from Herren.

“It is not a lecture. It is a story. It is not to tell you what you should do. And it will change your views of how you perceive alcohol and drugs and people who do them. The story will make you laugh, cry and get mad. I hope it has an outlasting impression on everyone,” said Livorsi.

Jozokos has seen the presentation a couple of times and shows the documentary “Unguarded” to her Senior Health Seminar class about Herren’s battle with addiction.

After watching Herren’s presentation, Jozokos says she was “blown away” and said, “it’s a presentation like no other.”

The presentation during the day, which all students will get the chance to see, starts with a 30 minute video and then Herren’s speaks about staying true to your identity.  The night presentation goes into depth with Herren’s personal struggles.

Westford Academy teachers are supportive of taking time out of the day to see Herren speak and no complaints were made to administration.

“It’s a presentation like no other.”

-Melanie Jozokos

“Administration, particularly Mr. Antonelli, believes that this is a strong message on substance abuse,” said Jozokos, “We’ve worked hard [to prevent] substance abuse.”

Every year, Jozokos sees students struggle with substance abuse and knows first-hand what it looks like and what it can do.

Dean Betsy Murphy had to deal with the inquiries about the presentation, which will take away time from the normal school schedule, but says there was only positive feedback.

“If there’s anyone who hasn’t been affected by a drug addiction, they will be,” said Murphy.

Murphy believes that watching the presentation is important for all students and thinks they will be more likely to join Project Purple. This is helpful for seniors, who may have the chance to join Project Purple in college.

Murphy said that Herren’s now has a better understanding of the school’s culture and how affluent the town of Westford is.

Jozokos said Herren’s can relate to the immense pressure Westford Academy students struggle with.

“Students can identify [with Herren] because he’s so real”, said Jozokos.

Jozokos said there will be a lot of emotions that will come out and there is no way to prepare for the presentation emotionally.

“The motivational reminder is it’s OK to be who you are. You don’t need to be anyone else for anyone.”