One of the most dramatic and emotional speaking appearances in some time in our schools took place last Friday when former NBA player Chris Herren addressed the entire student body in the Winthrop High School gymnasium.
Herren was a basketball star at Durfee High School in Fall River before going on to play at Boston College and Fresno State University where he was eventually drafted to play professionally in the NBA. But along the way, Herren got caught up with drugs. He told the attentive audience at WHS how his bad decisions destroyed his relationship with his family and cost him millions of dollars in his pro contracts and ultimately his career as a professional basketball player. It was a sad and emotionally jarring tale because Herren, who is 33 now, should be winding down an All-Star career in the NBA and perhaps even starring for his hometown team, the Boston Celtics, with whom he played but one season. That incredible story he told about leaving the FleetCenter and looking for his drug dealer just minutes before his NBA game underlined the depths of his drug dependence.
Herren was candid with our students about the poor choices he made and said his hope was that he could reach at least one student in the audience who might be proceeding down an ill-fated path in his/her life. Herren’s life was the subject of an ESPN documentary that has struck a chord with adults and kids. Herren was an amazing speaker who spoke from the heart. We also noticed some of our sports coaches in the audience, as well as our Olympic hockey captain Mike Eruzione, a much-in-demand inspirational speaker himself.
We commend the Viking Pride Foundation and the Michael Mason “11” Foundation for sponsoring Chris Herren’s appearance in Winthrop. So too, we must credit our school leaders, Principal Gail Conlon and Superintendent of Schools John Macero, for their bold decision in granting permission for Herren to appear at Winthrop High.
Herren gave our students an important message in one hour’s time that we hope they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
And if Chris Herren reached just one student in the audience, then it was well worth it.