Michael DeLeon is on a mission: a mission to educate our country’s youth to stay in the right direction when it comes to serious life issues, especially drugs.
DeLeon is the founder and powerhouse behind Steered Straight Inc., a nonprofit organization formed in 2000 and designed to carry an important message to youth on the extreme dangers of drugs, gang involvement and associated criminal activity. Steered Straight reaches out to children, teens and young adults with a message of reality about life choices and the importance of consequential thinking.
In addition to working with addicts and trying to steer young people away from drugs, DeLeon advocates for legislative measures to address drug addiction. He has even taken his mission to the national level.
DeLeon will be the featured speaker during a special gathering at the Wixom Community Center on Wednesday, July 20 at 7 p.m. He will lead a discussion about the current heroin/ opioid epidemic, the latest drug trends, and signs and symptoms of drug use.
The event is being hosted by the Walled Lake/ Commerce Community Coalition, Lakes Area Youth Assistance and City of Wixom.
“The purpose of this event is to introduce Michael DeLeon and the Steered Straight program to our communities because come the fall, our goal is to bring him in to sit down in front of students, starting at the middle school level, in presenting his program to the youth in our community,” Kristen Quinn, president of the Walled Lake/Commerce Community Coalition said. “Our goal is to encourage parents to come and bring their kids. We want to make sure parents are aware of the program that we plan on bringing into the schools, and by having them come gives them an opportunity to learn about what their role is in the entire prevention aspect as well.”
When he comes to Wixom next week, DeLeon will share his personal story, which includes his own battle with drug addiction and 12 years in prison. However, he says the focus of the evening will be solutions and prevention.
“We get people all riled up with these forums and meetings and then they go home and they are concerned. We need to give them marching orders and tell them what they need to do,” DeLeon said. “This [epidemic] is the worst public crisis our country has ever dealt with and it’s going to get worse. It’s not just in pockets across our country anymore, it’s in suburban America, rural America, urban America – it’s everywhere. No one is not affected.”
Quinn invites parents and students to attend the event, which is free and open to the public. Registration is not required.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that isn’t affected by substance abuse disorder. It reaches every single household one way or another, and this is about educating the entire community,” she said. “It’s never too soon to start the education about prevention. The risk factors are there years before the use begins, and the sooner we can introduce prevention, the sooner we can hopefully stave off that use.”
DeLeon’s visit in Wixom next Wednesday is just one of the stops he will be making during his three-day tour in Michigan. He will also be visiting the Brighton Center for Recovery where he will be speaking to individuals currently in in-patient treatment. He will also be speaking to men and women at the Oakland County Jail, and will be the keynote speaker at a Families Against Narcotics meeting in Fraser on July 19.
According to Quinn, DeLeon may bring his life skills program for youth into the Walled Lake Consolidated School District sometime this fall.
The variety of assemblies, including “Straight Talk” and “Stay in Your Lane”, discuss topics such as bullying, drug and alcohol awareness, dating violence, and gangs and gang violence as they relate to choices and decisions.
A series of special programs, which are intensive, eight-week courses designed to tackle certain issues, are also available.
“We’re fortunate that Walled Lake Schools is very open to the idea of bringing in prevention programs. We’re really fortunate to be part of a school district that is on board with our efforts here,” Quinn said. “An informed and educated community is the best opportunity that we have to prevent substance use disorder in our youth.”
DeLeon will be speaking at the “Heroin… it IS in YOUR backyard” event at the Wixom Community Center (49015 Pontiac Trail, Wixom) on Wednesday, July 20 at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.wccchealth.org/steeredstraight.
By: Ali Armstrong