Chris Herren returns to discuss substance abuse and mental health



By Sanjana Sanghani, Staff Reporter

Former professional basketball player Chris Herren presented on Oct. 3 an assembly titled “Unguarded: A Conversation with Chris Herren” to Conestoga students and staff in hopes of changing “one life.”

Herren delivered a second presentation addressing parents in the evening. Both speeches consisted of a short video detailing Herren’s life followed by a Q&A with the audience.

The district first brought Herren to Conestoga in 2014. According to Assistant Principal Misty Whelan, this assembly received positive feedback from students and community members.

“The idea is that because he was so powerful the last time he was here we hope that he inspires students to talk openly to adults about their issues and get the help they need,” Whelan said.

Herren, previously a guard for the Boston Celtics, struggled with drug addiction for 14 years. In 2011, he launched Project Purple, an initiative that “focuses on preventing substance use disorder, breaking the stigma and guiding individuals and their families through recovery.” In effort to share his story, Herren speaks to high school and college students nationally about drug prevention.

For freshman Hannah McMillen, the specific stories Herren shared and their relatability caused her to question why people start taking drugs or drinking.

“I think it’s really important for people to be open and honest,” McMillen said. “If someone is having suicidal thoughts, doing drugs and drinking alcohol, I think it’s important to tell someone even if you have to break their trust. I would rather lose a friendship then lose a person.”

Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Speak Up and corporate sponsors through Area Residents Caring and Helping (ARCH), worked together to organize the assembly.

On the morning of the assembly, SADD provided students with purple ribbons to wear during Herren’s speech.

The ribbons “symbolized support for Project Purple, and serve as a reminder for students to make good choices,” junior and SADD president Jack Hyams said.

According to Whelan, Student Services prepared drop-in rooms for students who experienced stronger emotions during the assembly. She hopes students will understand Herren’s message: “with help, comes hope.”

“The main point of the assembly was to create an open dialogue,” Whelan said. “We want students to understand to not use drugs and drinking as an outlet for everyday stresses, and we want people to understand that they can tell somebody if they need help.”

Sanjana Sanghani can be reached at [email protected]