PITTSFIELD -- A tearful mother told the story of losing her daughter to binge drinking.
A former NFL player described how he lost his career -- and nearly his life -- because of drug and alcohol abuse.
Poor decisions and their consequences took center stage on Thursday as middle school students from 20 public and private schools across Berkshire County gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield for the second STRIVE Youth Conference. The event was coordinated by the Berkshire District Attorney's Office Youth Advisory Board, which includes student representatives from Berkshire County schools.
The middle school students in attendance had been warned about cyberbullying, the dangers of drinking and drug addiction, sexting, and stereotyping. But this time was different.
"All the stuff they teach in school is about what could happen," seventh-grader Nick Howe said. "Everything that was told [today] is what actually did happen."
Kathi Sullivan, a parent, described to the student delegation how her daughter, Taylor Lee Meyer, 17, of Wrentham, had gone out into the woods to drink alcohol with friends in 2008. Police would later find Meyer dead face down in a nearby shallow river.
Sullivan described the turmoil she went through for three days while helicopters, dogs, a scuba team and others went searching for her daughter.
Taylor might have grown tired while trying to cross the river, Sullivan said.
"My 5 foot, 8 inch daughter who could
Sullivan showed the students a tattoo of Taylor on her right arm.
"She died because of poor choices surrounding alcohol," Sullivan said.
Kathi Sullivan's husband, Chris Sullivan, also had a heart-wrenching story to share. Chris Sullivan, who married Kathi Sullivan in 2011 -- three years after Taylor had died -- described how a life of hard work toward an NFL career that spanned from 1996-2002 was derailed because of an addiction to drinking and drugs.
Dealing with low self-esteem and confidence, Sullivan turned to drugs and alcohol. He described a six-year period where he racked up five OUIs, was arrested eight times, totaled four cars and landed in rehabilitation 15 times.
He also spent more than $5 million in salary.
"I thought I could beat it and I had the strong will, but it was stronger than me," said Chris Sullivan, who was raised in North Attleborough.
Students also watched a play about Facebook harassment and sexting.
"Our generation is the first to have to deal with it," said Youth Advisory Board member Chris Darroch, who helped organize the event. The Wahconah Regional High School senior said that cyberbullying and sexting were not uncommon at his school or other high schools.
"As the technological world grows, so will the problems," said Samantha Brown, who said it's rare to see someone without an iPhone on campus.
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