Roman Gabriel warns students against alcohol, drugs
By Karissa Minn
LANDIS – Roman Gabriel III began his drug and alcohol abstinence program Monday at Corriher-Lipe Middle School with an action video.
To energetic music, Olympians and professional athletes soared through the air, sped down the track and threw winning passes.
That’s the kind of success that these students can have in whatever they’re passionate about, he said. They just need to stay on the right path, which includes keeping away from alcohol and drugs.
Gabriel is speaking at all middle schools in Rowan County and Kannapolis starting this week. The program is sponsored by the Rowan-Kannapolis ABC Board, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and the Salisbury Police Department.
“You need to find what your passion in life is and focus on it,” he said.
But he said that’s going to take hard work, because “you are not entitled to anything.” In real life, he said, it takes more than just showing up to succeed – whether it’s winning an Olympic trophy or getting a job doing something you love.
“Working hard doesn’t guarantee anything, but if you don’t, it does guarantee you will fail,” Gabriel said.
One of the ways people can get distracted is through peer pressure, Gabriel said, and that’s especially dangerous when it leads to alcohol and drug use.
“You need to make your own decisions in life if you want to be successful,” he said. “There has never been a drug or an alcoholic beverage that has gotten anyone where they want to be going.”
To avoid making bad decisions, students can turn to people they trust who will hold them accountable for their behavior, Gabriel said.
“That’s what makes extracurricular activities and sports so important,” he said. “It’s surrounding yourself with people who have passion and who want to accomplish something in life.”
At the end, he encouraged the students to sign a pledge to be abstinent from drugs and alcohol.
Today, Gabriel will speak during three assemblies at Erwin Middle School in Kannapolis. He will be at China Grove and North Rowan middle schools on Wednesday, West Rowan and Knox Middle Schools (both 8th grade only) on Thursday and Southeast Middle School on Nov. 9.
Also on Nov. 9, Gabriel will talk to A.L. Brown High School 9th graders. He plans to visit other high schools in the area this spring.
Gabriel is the son of NFL quarterback Roman Gabriel, who played with the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles.
He almost followed in his father’s footsteps with a football career, but he said he realized his real passion was to help people through motivational speaking.
Terry Osborne, general manager of the ABC board, said he first heard Gabriel speak early last year. The two men then sat down and talked about bringing him to Rowan County.
The board has sponsored drug and alcohol education programs before, but this one likely will reach the widest audience.
Osborne said that according to a March 2011 statistic, every day in the United States, 8,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 become habitual drinkers.
“That was staggering,” he said. “In the past, we’ve targeted high schools and colleges with these programs. I said maybe we need to look at middle schools, and he concurred.”
The ABC board is required to use at least 7 percent of its revenues toward education. Osborne said that works out to about $12,000 this year, and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to match that amount.
Sheriff Kevin Auten said the money is coming from asset forfeiture funds, which in the past have gone toward similar education efforts.
“We’re excited have something new and innovative we can present to the youth of the county, to try to help them make better decisions and prevent them from going down the wrong track,” Auten said. “We’d rather deal with them when they’re students than when they’re in jail or we’re out on calls.”
Osborne said Salisbury Police Department is working on raising additional funds for the program. The department also is using asset forfeiture money, said Police Chief Rory Collins.
“This is the type of thing we’ve been wanting to do for while, and then the opportunity presented itself to us,” Collins said. “I think this might be the first time we have partnered with anything like this.”
The total amount should more than pay for the events this fall and spring, Osborne said. But the three organizations want to keep the program going year after year, and they hope to partner with private businesses, groups and individuals to make that happen.
Beverly Pugh, principal at Corriher-Lipe, said she thinks Gabriel’s message is a strong and important one to bring to middle school students.
“I’ve had kids come to me in the sixth grade already addicted - not many, but I do see them,” Pugh said.
After Monday’s assembly, eighth grade teacher Tina Turbeville said she thought Gabriel had a great message for the students.
“I think it was done in a way that they can actually connect to it,” Turbeville said. “I was sitting around a bunch of boys, and they were getting really into the sports analogies.”
Eighth-grade student Bryan Stewart, who plays football and sings in the show choir, said he was interested in Gabriel’s stories about promising young athletes and other students who got involved with alcohol and drugs.
They wasted their potential, Gabriel said, and sometimes fell into crippling addictions like his own brother did.
“He kind of shows what could happen if we get into drugs and alcohol,” Stewart said. “We need to keep focused and reach for our expectations.”
Stewart’s classmate, Abby Blume, also said was the most interesting part of the program to her.
“There were a bunch of people who had a life cut out for them,” she said. “They were so good at what they did, but they turned to alcohol and drugs.”
Blume, who also participates in show choir and other extracurricular activities, said one more lesson of Gabriel’s stood out to her.
“Surround yourself with good people who make good choices,” she said, “and you can go far in life.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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