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I Choose My Future program to raise awareness about the devastating consequences of drug use

By Levan Abramishvili
Monday, March 11
Tbilisi State University was visited by the Ambassador Ross Wilson and a DEA agent, where they talked about the importance of preventing drug use in the youth.

In the scope of the I Choose My Future program, Tbilisi State University was visited by the Ambassador Ross Wilson. The program is aimed to inform schoolchildren and university students about the harmful outcomes of drug use. Before Tbilisi, the meetings were held in Batumi and Kutaisi.

The presentation was opened by Mr. Melory Tsipouria, the president of the U.S.-Georgian Friendship Association. He thanked the U.S. embassy for the continued support of Georgia. Alexandre Tsiskaridze, the vice-principal of TSU also welcomed the gathered students.

Ambassador Ross Wilson, who took up duties as chargé d’affaires, ad interim, at the American Embassy in Tbilisi last November, expressed his fondness of the name of the program - I Choose My Future. He recalled and instance, when a student once asked him if he ever made any mistakes. He acknowledged that he has, like everyone else. He said that even people with great authority and experience aren’t safe from making mistakes, the important thing is that we have to learn from them, i.e. choose our own future. He reaffirmed that the United States strongly supports Georgia in myriad of fields such as education, defense, economy, healthcare, democracy, rule of law and freedom.

Temur Dadiani was also present at the event. He is a Georgian soldier, who, after losing both of his legs to a landmine in Afghanistan went on to set a Guinness World Record for push-ups. Dadiani introduced the presenter of the program, Rockwell "Rocky" Herron. Temur and Rocky met in Sand Diego, where Temur was rehabilitating after his injuries. Rocky helped him take up wheelchair fencing and made him believe in his abilities.

Herron impressed the students when he began his speech in Georgian and thanked the audience for coming to the presentation. He briefly talked about his experiences working as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He warned the audience that despite being a patriotic American he wasn’t there to share beautiful stories from his country.“The freest and richest country in the world is currently facing a catastrophe in the form of drug crisis” he said about the U.S.

In the past decade, the number of people dying from an overdose has been steadily growing in the United States. Luckily, Georgia has no such problem as of now, but Herron emphasized the immense importance of preventing young people from trying drugs in the first place.

Herron has been a DEA agent for 28 years. His missions of preventing drug trafficking has spanned from Bolivia to El Salvador to the borders of Mexico. He has successfully prevented tons of drugs from being trafficked into the U.S. and in doing so he most certainly has saved many lives. Despite all his accomplishments, he said that he is the most proud of the work that he is doing now as an educator. He believes that through education lives can be transformed and saved. Therefore, he spends most of his time travelling around the world and spreading the information about the harmfulness of drug use.

Part of the presentation was a sobering video montage of 40 people, many of whom were teenagers, who lost their lives to drugs. Some of the faces were familiar for the audience, like Cory Monteith, a beloved actor adored by teenagers all over the world and music legend Prince, both of their lives were cut short by a drug addiction. The faces of these people, full of hope and a promising future displayed that no one is safe from becoming addicted to drugs.

"When it comes to using drugs, there are three rules that never change" he said. "First, drug use is a choice. The second rule, like every choice, there is a consequence. The third rule is those consequences never affect just the user.” He emphasized the affects that addiction has to those around the drug user – their family, friends and communities.

Herron emphasized that the drug dealers are finding new ways to keep people addicted to drugs. They add a powerful opioid – fentanyl – to other drugs, which is 100 times more powerful than heroin, therefore drug users have no idea about the addictive qualities of the chemicals they think they buy. Through footage of raids at drug labs, where drug dealers mixed chemicals in the presence of their small children, he showed the gathered students how drugs destroys hundreds of thousands of lives each year in the U.S. and across the world.

In concluding the presentation, Herron came back to the motto “I Choose My Future”. He showed the audience videos of his friend, Temur Dadiani, setting the world record in 2015 and training for the paraskiing championship in Gudauri just last weekend. He was able to accomplish all of these by making a conscious decision to take his life into his own hands and despite the setbacks work hard to prove that everyone can choose their future.