Rocky Herron, a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent, warned Coronado parents and community members in late January about the dangers and rapid rise of fentanyl use during a presentation at Granzer Hall inside Coronado Middle School.
It was the same information approximately 640 students in the sixth- to eighth-grades had received during school earlier that day on Jan. 23.
The evening event attracted a little over 50 people, and seventh-grade parent Janice Bryant said that the information was helpful.
“It provided a lot of excellent information that parents need to know. I appreciate that he was very raw and straightforward with his information,” she said. “It’s a powerful message and it’s getting the conversation started, and it’s probably going to be a catalyst for the parents here to go home and talk to their kids more about drugs and drug use.”
As a retired DEA agent, Herron has over 31 years of knowledge that has allowed him to become the Drug Abuse Prevention “Ambassador” for the San Diego County of Education.
I Chose My Future
His drug prevention program is called “I Choose My Future,” and it is a free lecture he presents to community groups and schools across San Diego County about the effects of vaping, drinking and drug abuse.
Herron’s presentation comes as fentanyl use has become an epidemic across the country, and he shared statistics that relate to the amount of people who die from overdose.
He said that over 40 people a day are taken into emergency rooms across the county as a result of vaping and THC. He also shared that the amount of people dying from overdose has increased dramatically since 2007.
“It’s not 10,000 a year anymore, it’s almost 10,000 a month,” he said. “If we don’t show the kids, emotionally, they won’t learn.”
At other school districts in the county, attendance from community members has been scarce, Herron said. Yet, he began his presentation telling the audience that showing up to these types of events speaks volumes about the community’s involvement in their children’s well-being.
“For a small school, small district, this is an excellent attendance tonight,” said Herron. “If you took the trouble to show up tonight, you already get it. You’re already aware, you want to learn more, you want to figure out how to talk to your kids.”
Audience members included Coronado USD President Renee Cavanaugh, Vice President Scot Youngblood, and Clerk Alexia Palacios-Peters.
“In the 60 to 90 minutes that I get, that’s what I try to show the kids, let them see the problem through my eyes,” said Herron.
Herron said he’s a parent to three daughters, and he intentionally designed the program for them.
‘Yo Elijo Mi Futuro’ is the Spanish title of the presentation, and Herron also is a bilingual presenter who has traveled within and outside the United States to inform audiences everywhere about the dangers of drugs.
In all his presentations, Herron said young people have understood everything in the program.
“The more children that know the risk, the less they’ll be inclined to accecpt that offer.”Former DEA Agent Rocky Herron
“I personally believe the more children that know the risk, the less they’ll be inclined to accept that offer,” he said.
Herron emphasized that access to drugs is closer to one than may seem possible.
“Some of you might be thinking ‘Well it’s not really appropriate for the kids, why are we teaching this?’ The real world is out there,” he said. “Your children need to be prepared to understand what that choice means today.”
Herron shared statistics about the tragic deaths and consequences that Fentanyl holds for victims such as “a 16-year-old gave fentanyl to a 12-year-old girl in California, killed her, he’s been charged for homicide,” he said.
Herron shows students, parents, and community members the same video featuring old, young, famous and ordinary people who have died from overdoses.
“So I asked the kids to watch this and ask themselves ‘was it worth it?’” Afterwards, Herron encouraged further contemplation.
“Welcome to the United States of America in 2022,” he said. “I told the kids maybe a dozen or so died in only the short time I was giving my presentation.”
The easy access to vaping, drinking, and drug abuse are another reason why Herron seeks to spread awareness.
“I tried very hard to keep my children away from drugs and alcohol when they were teenagers. Do you think I was successful? Nope. … I realized something powerful, it’s not going to be some bad kid, it’s going to be someone very close to your child,” he said.
Herron explained that drug traffickers want children to remain in a cycle of addiction.
Apart from the dangers that this pattern imposes, a child’s brain development is halted and remains fixed, which permits eventual deterioration. The dangers of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana are other drugs that Herron highlighted during his presentation.
The lack of communication among children today can be associated with the heavy presence of social media as a norm that takes up the majority of their time. Herron said that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey reported that 44% of kids feel persistently sad and hopeless.
“If I can go back and make one change, I would take the phone at ten o’clock at night,” he said.
Herron said that nicotine addiction is another trend popularized online and present among young children.
According to Herron, there are “3 ‘Laws’ of substance abuse: (1) Substance abuse almost always starts as a choice; (2) All users eventually experience negative consequences; (3) Those negative consequences never, ever just affect the drug user.”
In another presentation slide, Herron shared that the tragedy of vaping, drinking, and drug abuse begins with recreation, leads to self-medication, and may ultimately result in addiction.
CUSD Middle School parent Tracy Real shared that Herron’s information is important for effective communication between parents and their students.
“I am a parent of a middle school student who really enjoyed the presentation that Rocky gave at school,” Real said. “I thought it was wonderful, very helpful, and very dynamic. He gave a lot of great facts and new information that was helpful.”
Real is also a representative for Safe Harbor, an organization in Coronado that does intervention, prevention, and counseling services. School board Trustees Cavanaugh and Palacios-Peters are on its board, according to the group’s website.
The organization handed out ‘Save the Date’ flyers for a small round table with school counselors and Safe Harbor staff taking place on March 13 titled “How to Talk to Your Kids About Drugs Workshop.”
“We are here not only to support Coronado Middle School, but to share some information with parents so that they can follow up and have those beneficial conversations,” Real said.