“Sticks and stones will break your bones, and names WILL hurt you,” said Ron Glodoski, a national expert on bullying, resiliency, and drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse.
“How many people in this room have ever teased another kid or been teased by another kid?” Glodoski asked the Teen Summit audience at Montabella Junior/Senior High School on Dec. 14.
Teen Summit, coordinated by Montabella teacher Mary Haas, is a student-led initiative intended to empower students to demonstrate tolerance, encouragement and compassion in response to difficult issues they face each day.
Glodoski, the keynote speaker among 20 others, shared his real-life story as a victim of childhood abuse, a drug and alcohol user and dealer, and a gang member. He spoke of the journey to recovery, moving away from the negative influences of his addiction and starting a new successful life. He has been drug-free for 27 years, is a well-known author of “How to be a Successful Criminal: The Real Deal on Crime, Drugs and Easy Money” and owns a multi-million dollar teddy bear company in Milwaukee.
After Glodoski’s opener, students separated into small groups for part of the day to attend four 45-minute sessions on choice topics. The daylong event concluded with Montabella teacher Shaun Balhorn’s challenge to students to recognize their purpose, not be afraid of failure, and dream the big dreams they had when they were younger.
“Verbal abuse is the number one killer of a child’s spirit and leads kids to believe they’re worthless,” Glodoski said. “They stop caring about life and act out by turning to drugs and alcohol. Prisons are overflowing with inmates who believe the garbage they were told when they were younger.”
Glodoski asked students and faculty how many had ever seen violence at home or had a loved one who’s died, been in jail, lost a job, been separated or divorced, committed suicide or been in a car accident because of drug or alcohol abuse. One by one, many audience members gave an affirmative response by standing.
Television and commercials, especially during sporting events, make kids think drugs and alcohol are cool, according to Glodoski. He referenced the expensive vehicles drug dealers drive — Cadillacs, Lincolns, and SUVs.
“TV glamorizes and glorifies drugs and alcohol. You see the most beautiful girls in the world and everybody’s having fun. What would happen if they showed you kids the truth?” Glodoski asked. “Can you imagine the next time you watch a game on TV, you see your friend dying, daddy beating on mommy, or your best friend in jail or in a car accident?”
“The first thing you have to do is figure out why you hate life so much,” said Glodoski of making the first step toward recovery from drug and alcohol abuse.
Verbal abuse had made Glodoski hate his life. At around 6 years old, he began to feel worthless and eventually, turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain.
“When people told me I was worthless and dumb, I started believing it,” Glodoski said. “I was 33 years old when I changed my opinion about myself. I was the lucky one; I had professional help.”
Glodoski moved to Milwaukee and started hanging around with different people. Instead of drugs and alcohol, his new circle of friends and acquaintances gave him hope.
“My mother always taught me in life, who you hang with is who you are,” Glodoski said. “Remember your hopes and dreams and avoid dream killers — drugs and alcohol and hanging around negative people. Believe in yourself.”