REACHING EVERY CHILD
Darren Tessitore is determined that every child in the US will get the Truth About Drugs, and he isn’t messing around.
When Boston native Darren Tessitore was 15, seven of his friends died by drugs or alcohol: two in a drug-related motorcycle accident, four in drunk-driving car crashes, one shot trying to buy cocaine and the other shot by his own terrified father while he was attacking his father in a cocaine-driven rage. “I decided I didn’t want to die, didn’t want to go down this road,” says Tessitore. “That is why I decided that I wanted to do something about the drug problem on Earth, as it has impacted my life to such a huge degree.”
When the Foundation for a Drug-Free World was established in 2006, Tessitore saw his purpose and a way. “I wanted to get Drug-Free World in every school in the country. I wanted to get to every kid who is the age that I was.”
His were not empty words. He set out to find institutions that would have reached him and his friends before drugs and alcohol did.
With nearly 29 percent of all traffic fatalities in the US tied to alcohol use and 16 percent to drugs, the first such institution he approached was driver education. Its teachers are required to deliver two to three hours of drug education in their curriculum, so a tailored version of the Truth About Drugs program was an obvious fit.
He attended driver education conferences providing free materials, giving keynote addresses and delivering training seminars. He was met with enthusiasm. Teachers were eager to get through to youth and happy to have a partner in the effort.
“The video has been particularly beneficial to high school age students, as they receive information from young adults who have been there and done that,” says an executive of the American Driver Traffic Safety Education Association (ADTSEA).
Tessitore and his team now participate in or provide materials to every national and state driver education conference in the US. That’s 18 a year and for seven years running. And with materials to over 10,000 teachers so far, a lot of teens are getting the real facts about drugs before ever getting behind the wheel.
However, most youth encounter drugs long before old enough to drive and Tessitore wants to reach them all.
“I’ve always worked with police,” states Tessitore. “They work in schools and their mission is to help kids. I like people like that.”
These police are the School Resource Officers (SROs)—sworn officers charged with creating a safe learning environment for children. And as SROs have an additional duty of drug education, they are an obvious partner in reaching every child.
“Had any of us known, we wouldn’t have done them. And I don’t think my friends would be dead now.”
Drug-Free World has now participated in the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) annual conferences for the past 11 years and Tessitore now regularly trains SROs in the program.
Writes one Baltimore SRO: “I have been incorporating the Truth About Drugs program in my drug education presentations for the last three years. Thank you for visiting us and opening the eyes of my fellow SROs here in Baltimore County as to how good the Truth About Drugs program really is.”
Heartened by the progress so far and the dedicated friends he’s made, Tessitore is as determined as ever: “I really think we can get rid of drugs. Once everyone is educated on what drugs are and what they do, they won’t want to do them. Had any of us known, we wouldn’t have done them. And I don’t think my friends would be dead now.”
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