Anti-substance abuse speech prompts tears

A hefty silence engulfed the room and students' eyes welled up with tears soon after the call was patched through to the Wyoming State Penitentiary.

Someone asked, "What do you miss the most?"

"I miss the little things," said 1998 MCHS graduate Clint Haskins. "The smell after it rains, the feel of green grass, being able to turn the lights on and off and going to the bathroom when I want to."

Haskins, who is serving a 20-year sentence for a drunken-driving accident that killed eight college students in 2001, spoke to high school students in a telephone interview Friday during a presentation that school leaders hope would deter students from using drugs and alcohol.

The two-hour presentation, led by teacher Craig Conrad as part of his "Unstoppable You" speaking series, at times produced shouts of enthusiasm; and later, a stony silence from the roughly 600 students who crammed in the school's auditorium.

Conrad aired video footage of students excelling at sports and then the confines of the prison, where Haskins is housed. The contrast was meant to show students some consequences of drug and alcohol use. A shake of each student's hand at the end of the event meant students committed to be substance-free, Conrad said.

Freshman Savanna Schell said she thought the presentation made a major impact on her peers. Schell said her brother is friends with Haskins, which made the presentation even more moving.

Friday's presentation was the first time Conrad had addressed MCHS students and included a call from Haskins. Conrad has made similar speeches at more than 100 other schools -- some with Haskins and some without.

Clint's mother, Lynn Haskins, took the stage to speak to students. After a tearful speech, students wildly applauded her with a standing ovation.

"The choice to drink and drive can change things forever," she said. "My dreams for Clint turned to worries. I worry that the twinkle in Clint's eye may go away forever. Please don't let this happen."

Clint told students that he first chose to drink and drive at the age of 15 after being invited to a party west of Craig "with the cool kids." Clint said he thought that he could handle drinking and driving, and that he remembers hearing the same anti-alcohol and -drug speeches in high school.

"I would always find one thing that made what I was doing different. I would say that I was right where you're at seven years ago," he said, adding that students should not fool themselves into thinking that a tragedy can't happen to them.

Almost all MCHS students lined up to shake Conrad's hand and receive an Unstoppable You sticker. Some students wiped away tears while they waited in line, while others talked about the presentation.

"That was depressing," one student was overheard saying.

Another student said that a lot of her friends drink alcohol.

"Half of the people going up there are just doing it because they're being put on the spot," said freshman Amanda Nichols.

But the majority of students seemed genuinely affected.

"It's touching," sophomore Steve Wilson said.

About the use of drugs and alcohol in his school, he said, "It's stuff that needs to stop."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

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