By the Fourth Block Journalism Class
It was a regular Tuesday morning when the underclassmen ventured to the Collins Center. There was a buzz of excitement as the kids waved their friends over to sit with them. The glow of cell phones illuminated faces in the crowd. The voice of health teacher Ms. Breen strained to be heard over the sound of conversation and students flipping through stacks of papers and scribbling down quick and hurried notes, thinking of anything and everything but what was about to happen.
Then the lights dimmed. The control booth pressed play on the video. And the auditorium sat in silence as Chris Herren’s story began.
A Fall River native who had talents of a superstar in high school, Herren was known as the “tough kid” who had the potential to become a NBA great. After time at BC and Fresno State, he played for the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics. Though he was gifted on the court, off the court his life was a constant battle against drugs, one that would cost him his professional career and nearly his life.
In high school on the weekends he would drink and smoke weed with this friends. “It was accepted as long as you[were] winning,” said Herren’s former high school coach in the video.
Now, Herren goes across the country to talk to high school kids and share his story, hoping to inspire young high school students to not to go down the same path. Herren says telling his story in front of anyone is “amazingly rewarding and extremely tragic,” but there’s no place he would rather be than in front of high school kids. He believes “red Solo cups and blunts” can lead to popping pills and shooting up. That was his experience.
“We believe that he connects with the students, as evidenced by how quiet they were and focused on Chris,” said Mr. McNally, program coordinator for health and physical education. “We also heard from administrators, teachers, and students at other high schools where he spoke who also believed that his presentation was outstanding, on-target for students, and very well received.”
Social worker Ms. Kirby agreed: “My sense was many, many students were moved by what he said. It was a pretty powerful presentation.”
Ms. Kirby’s sense was right, as kids had a positive reaction to the speech.
“What he said was real and eye-opening, and I took a lot what he said to heart,” freshman Kate Rigazzio said moments after the speech concluded.
Freshman Henry Gilbert said Herren’s story “hopefully will change some of [his] friends… and their lifestyle.”
Sophomores in attendance also offered positive feedback. Caroline Murtagh said, “I hope his speech hits at least one kid.”
Herren hopes the same as Murtagh.
When he was younger, Herren listened to speakers just like him, and thought, “I will never be that guy…. Now, I would give anything to get back to 1994 and listen.”
As the speech ended, the Collins Center rose to a standing ovation. A feeling of courage and respect was expressed through each clap during the ovation. Before Herren gave up his microphone, he ended with one last note, one of the most powerful messages during the presentation: “Don’t ever change for anyone. You’re perfect just the way you are, man.”
Conor Meehan, Yoonjin Moon, Ashley Richmond, and Nick Valeri contributed to this article.