“I had professional scouts looking me up, calling me up saying, ‘Come to our baseball camps,’ ” said Sarich, a speaker for Teen Truth Live, told a crowd of students at Spanish Springs High School on Friday. “I was on a path every day of my life. At 15 years old they thought I was an 18-year-old, ready to recruit me.”
Then Sarich’s path diverged when his father suddenly died during his senior year of high school. He first mourned by isolating himself, Sarich said, and then he started drinking.
After being in an alcohol-related car accident in which his friend died the following year, he lost his college scholarships and sunk into years of alcohol and drug abuse, Sarich said.
Sarich told his story to students at the end of Destructive Decisions week at Spanish Springs High School, a week-long program designed to help students avoid substance abuse, said Michael Faker, an SSHS government teacher and Leadership program coordinator.
“I have had some friends who were involved in it (substance abuse), not as much as they talk about here, but they’ve gone down the wrong path and, yeah, I’ve lost some friends over it,” said Leadership program member Nathan Tilley, 17, a junior from Sparks.
Students also were shown videos made by Teen Truth Live during the school’s daily announcements and a committee of the Leadership program members made posters with statistics about substance abuse at SSHS and in Nevada, Faker said.
Members of the Leadership program worked for a month making posters, raising funds to bring Sarich to speak and advertising to make the program happen, said student body Secretary Hannah Bush, 17, a senior from Reno.
Sarich told his life story and presented a graphic 22-minute film produced by Teen Truth Live, a San Diego-based company that provides programs on problems that teens face, such as eating disorders and bullying. Sarich held three assemblies Friday, each one with one-third of the SSHS 2,500-member student body in attendance.
“I basically give them a synopsis of my life story,” said Sarich, who has been a Teen Truth Live speaker for the last two years. “In 1994 I had a personal tragedy when my dad died. Unfortunately, I choose the wrong road to deal with it and I tell them how I overcame it by making good choices. Life is about choices.”
Sarich drove home the point that the decisions people make early in life can decide their future.
“You need to be that difference in life, because without that difference you are nothing,” Sarich said.
SSHS students said they saw mixed results but that the message is getting across.
“I’ve seen people read the posters and say, ‘Hey, I didn’t know about that before,’ so kids are talking about it and finding things out they didn’t know,” Bush said.
There is only so much schools can do to control substance abuse, Faker said, but the Washoe County School District tries to be proactive.
“If we notice a kid having problems then we have counseling services,” he said. “We also have police and drug dogs to keep the campus drug-free. Unfortunately we can’t control what they do outside of school, this (program) is about influencing people’s decisions.”