La Cañada 7-12 was fortunate to welcome Tony Hoffman, former BMX elite pro and motivational speaker, to the school on Friday, October 27, to give a presentation on the drastic effect drugs have had on his life. The talk served as the grand finale of Red Ribbon Week, the drug prevention awareness campaign that takes place annually across the United States.
The assembly, which took place during third period block, was different than other Red Ribbon Week presentations in that it consisted of far more than the typical “don’t-do-drugs” lectures of previous years. Hoffman shared his life story, from experiencing social anxiety and depression as a middle schooler, to experimenting with marijuana and eventually prescription drugs, to his battle with addiction that led him to robbing a person at gunpoint, living on the streets, and serving jail time. He emphasized the consequences of one choice, our school’s theme for Red Ribbon Week, including how once you walk through the gateway of drug usage, it’s nearly impossible to come back.
Hoffman also talked about how he overcame his struggle by learning to focus on a goal. It started in prison with brushing his teeth everyday, but it built up into cultivating his passion for BMX racing so he could make it to the Olympics. But when an injury prevented him from racing in the 2012 Summer Olympics, he was able to serve as a coach in the 2016 games. However, he emphasized that his success was more of a miracle than anything else: he said that out of all his high school friends who became addicted, he was the only one to survive it.
Students were affected by his account in different ways.
“It gave me a better understanding of how, regardless of where you come from, addiction can drag you down to the bottom of society,” said Rochelle Leung (12), who thought the fact that Hoffman came from a community similar to La Cañada made him easier to relate to. “When we think of drug culture, we think of Lil Pump in a mansion partying, but in reality, you’re not partying because you’re homeless.”
Others were bothered by Hoffman’s attitude throughout the presentation.
“The one complaint I would have is that I thought he came off as a little bit arrogant in some parts, like about how expensive his outfit or car was,” said Sean Natarajan (11). “I can see people saying ‘oh, he’s making a ton of money now because he did drugs,’ and completely misunderstanding the whole point.” However, he did elaborate that he enjoyed the talk.
Regardless of personal reactions, Tony Hoffman’s story reminded the whole school of the dangerous ramifications that one poor choice in high school can have on the rest of one’s life.
Photo credit: http://www.tonyhoffmanspeaking.com/