HUNTINGTON — As West Virginia high school students settle into a new routine and begin a new year, they also can look forward to hearing from former NBA player Chris Herren at the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission and MVB Bank’s Opioid Awareness Summit at Marshall University in September.
Announced in June, summit organizers have been busy working to prepare for the two-day, cross-state event. The summit will take place first at West Virginia University on Sept. 17, and then at Marshall’s Cam Henderson Center on Sept. 18. The event also will be livestreamed to schools for students who cannot physically make it to either location. Joe Boczek, president of L&K Marketing and coordinator for the summit, said organizers anticipate that 5,000 high school students will attend each event and view the livestream.
Prevention education will be the main focus of the summit, with a primary goal to provide universal education to all students and empower them with knowledge to make healthy choices and have lifelong wellness.
The summit will kick off an extensive initiative focused on prevention, compassionate treatment programs, and educational and employment opportunities called Game Changers.
The two-hour event will feature Herren and Rhonda Sciortino. Herren was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 1999 and was traded to his hometown team, the Boston Celtics, in 2000. After suffering a season-ending injury with the Celtics, he went on to play in five countries.
But during that time, and even in college, Herren was dealing with addiction, eventually starting heroin at age 24. In 2008, Herren found recovery and now shares his story with the goal of making a positive impact on others.
Author and child advocate Sciortino was abandoned at a young age and became a ward of the court. According to her website, except for a brief time with a wonderful foster family, her first 16 years of life were spent in the custody of her grandparents, who were mentally ill and alcoholics. At 8, their home was destroyed by fire and she was homeless for months.
When she turned 15, she decided to seek emancipation, which required that she have a job. Sciortino went on to become the youngest insurance agent in California. She was eventually able to tie her insurance experience to her passion for ensuring other children did not live like she did, and is now the spokeswoman for several child advocacy organizations.