The First Choice & A Second Chance
This program begins with an introduction video aimed at knocking down the stigma attached to the disease of addiction, educating the audience on the current drug epidemic, and setting the stage for a powerful, honest and heartfelt story. During interviews with Stephen’s family, it becomes clear he had a great childhood. “No one saw this coming.”
Stephen shows his audience, through his life experience, how addiction can unfold, the consequences of substance use, and how stigma contributed to his inability to recover. His storytelling technique allows each individual person to draw conclusions in their own meaningful way as it relates to their own life.
Stephen focuses on the progression of his addiction—beginning to end—leaving people with a better understanding of how the choices they make today will affect them for the rest of their lives. The trifecta gateway drugs of nicotine, marijuana, and alcohol introduced to Stephen in 8th grade by older peers was just the beginning, eventually leading to self-destructive behaviors, criminal convictions, and a deadly opioid addiction.
He takes you through his dark days in addiction and slowly transitions into sobriety, emphasizing that recovery is possible. The pivotal moment is when Stephen was given a real second chance to turn his mess into a message by working in the field of addiction treatment and prevention. In recovery, Stephen gained the confidence to go back to college and eventually law school. He closes with hope and motivation to chase your dreams, lead by example, be kind and understanding of others, and to live a happy and healthy lifestyle.
Break The Silence: Let’s Talk About It
For those who have heard Stephen speak, and especially those who have also read his book, know that he shares many experiences which are extremely difficult to talk about. Stephen prides himself on keeping his presentation real and authentic by being completely open and honest about the topics and issues surrounding substance use and mental health.
Break The Silence: Let’s Talk About It is a follow-up program to Stephen’s assembly presentation that gives students the opportunity to ask more personal questions about Stephen’s story and share their own experiences and struggles in a small, safe classroom setting. Students can ask questions about any of the topics discussed throughout Stephen’s assembly presentation such as substance use disorder, mental health, wellness, leadership, decision making, criminal justice, or any other relevant topics. School counselors are highly encouraged to work along side Stephen during this program.
This program also gives schools the opportunity to have Stephen meet with youth groups centered around wellness and prevention (SADD, LEAD, VAASA, etc.) as well as captains of sports teams to talk about the importance of being in a leadership role. Stephen will ask the participants to describe in their own words what they believe their role is, encourage them to reflect on their current attitude and actions, and have an open discussion about what actions can be taken to improve leadership roles.
How Can We Help This Kid?
(Professional Development: Assembly or Classroom)
This professional development program focuses on proactive measures and dynamic solutions for helping troubled, at-risk students.
Goals of the program:
- Reduce expulsions, suspensions and substance misuse
- Improve student behavior, attitude and decision making skills
- Strengthen student-educator and athlete-coach relationships
In the program introduction video, Stephen’s parents discuss the negative impact out-of-school suspension and removal from school sports teams had on his academic success, social and emotional wellbeing. Stephen shares pivotal moments during middle and high school which dramatically changed the trajectory of his life, emphasizing the importance of adding and maintaining (rather than removing) vital protective factors in the lives of struggling students. His addiction ends and recovery begins with a second chance he was given by two treatment program directors who approached Stephen with the mindset, “How can we help this kid?”
Before transitioning into Q&A and open discussion, Stephen discusses a shift within the criminal justice system from punishment to rehabilitation, especially for people suffering from mental health and substance use disorders. He discusses the importance and effectiveness of diversionary programs, and explains how that carries over into approaching student discipline by offering alternative resolutions to student misconduct. Attendees will leave the program with a better understanding of how to approach student conflict and misconduct with the mindset, “How can we help this kid?”
Not My Kid: Parent Program
How does 1 of 4 brothers, all raised in the same home by loving and supportive parents, end up addicted to drugs for over a decade while the other 3 brothers take the positive path to business school and law school without any substance use issues whatsoever? Stephen answers this question by showing parents, through his story, how his personality traits and way of thinking was—and still is—very different from his 3 brothers.
When speaking to parents, Stephen places a great deal of emphasis on prevention through protection. Using his personal experiences with his own parents, as well as knowledge gained through working in the field of prevention, addiction treatment and recovery, Stephen pinpoints potential threats and warning signs for parents to look out for.
Parents never think it’s going to happen to their kid. But when it does, most have no idea where to turn or how to handle it. Stephen’s parents, like many parents who have a child suffering from a substance use disorder, dealt with the emotional and financial hardship as a result of their child’s addiction. Members of their community, friends, and even family labeled Stephen with stigmas that made it increasingly difficult for him to recover, for his parents to confide in others and seek help for their son’s drug addiction.
By sharing his personal experience and his parent’s experiences openly and honestly, Stephen hopes families can avoid some of the costly hardships that were part of his journey. He stresses the importance of parents keeping an open line of communication with their children and how fear of punishment and harsh consequences prevents teens from being open with their parents. Stephen’s presentation will leave parents with a better understanding of substance use disorder prevention, treatment and support.
Know The Law, Save A Life
A comprehensive seminar educating on drug and alcohol laws with the following learning outcomes for students:
• Make better informed choices
• Understand the legal and moral consequences of their actions
• Help SAVE LIVES
Stephen begins this seminar by qualifying himself through his criminal justice education and personal experience with drugs and alcohol as it relates to the criminal justice system. During his decade-long drug addiction, Stephen was arrested numerous times for drug and alcohol related offenses which resulted in criminal convictions, probation, court-mandated treatment, drug testing, and even jail.
On the other side, during his 7 plus years of recovery, Stephen received his Bachelor of Science with Honors from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, won 1st place at an undergraduate moot court competition, and is currently a Candidate for Juris Doctor at Brooklyn Law School. He has interned at a District Attorney’s Office working with a prosecutor assigned to drug court, and also held summer associate positions at two criminal defense firms. He has spoken on numerous panels with police and prosecutors at substance use prevention programs. It is safe to say that very few people have such extensive experience with the criminal justice system on both sides of the law.
After qualifying himself as an expert in this field, Stephen tells a story about an underage drinking party he and his friends attended during his sophomore year of high school. What occurred that evening implicates various laws related to drugs and alcohol which could have had serious legal and moral consequences.
Looking back on that night, Stephen realized that he and his friends were ignorant of several laws related to drugs and alcohol—some of which, had they known, could have altered their behavior and potentially SAVED A LIFE. Good Samaritan/911 Immunity Law, Social Host Law, DWI/DWAI & Zero Tolerance, Breathalyzer Refusal, Possession of alcohol under 21-years-old, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Hazing, and Civil Liability are some of the laws discussed in this seminar.
Stephen breaks down each law in a way for students to understand, explaining how those laws are implicated in the story he told. Students will answer a series of multiple-choice questions to test their knowledge. Stephen will reserve time at the end of the seminar to answer questions and engage in an open discussion.