After losing his 21 year old son to a drug overdose, Skip Gates continues to urge high schoolers all around New England to refrain from the use of opiates.
Skip has a connection to U-32, as he interviewed here for a job long ago. Though he didn’t take the job, he says, “U-32 has always been near and dear to my heart.”
After presenting an Emmy awarded film, “The Opiate Effect” and sharing stories with U-32’s student audience, Skip spoke about his mission as a public speaker.
“I’ve spent my whole life being a teacher and I feel that this is still teaching. And I feel that I have an ability to connect with kids,” said Skip.
“I’m here to let them know that it’s not just someone saying no but it’s someone saying that it happened to me, so it can happen to you. I do feel it makes a difference based on the feedback I’ve received from kids.”
Skip has often had an effect on people, changing their lives for the better.
“I’ve got some letters and stuff saying it’s made an impact on their life. The biggest shock was when I spoke at the opiate conference in 2010 after the movie premier in Burlington, and this young lady said ‘you don’t know me but I saw you speak in Montpelier’. At the time she was an addict and had no intention of ever quitting, but she saw my pain and decided she couldn’t do it to her parents and thanked me for giving her that strength. She gave me a hug and walked back into the crowd.”
In the past few years, as Vermont has become aware of the opiate crisis, Skip has been able to get the message out, helping our state.
“Vermont schools are much quicker to open their doors. I live in Maine and this is the first year that they’ve decided that it is valuable. I was over here every other week doing eight or nine schools for two years, so I’ve been in most Vermont schools,” Skip said.
Skip always wants people to take this away from his speeches: “You are not in this alone. If you make a mistake with yourself, those of us that love you will be forever changed. It’s really true.”
Junior Zack Campbell said he found the assembly valuable. “I learned that it can happen to anybody. His son was gifted academically and seemed to be a great skier. There was a lot of facts that he shared that I didn’t know about before.”
Zack and other students were able to see how easily addiction can happen to anyone. Senior Ben Parrotte discussed the effects of peer pressure. “The moment that stood out to me was when he talked about peer pressure. Peer pressure can affect so many kids, especially teenagers,” Ben said. “The use of opiates is an important topic especially in Vermont, because a lot of people are getting into heroin. The faster we get the word out and teach kids about it the more we can help prevent this disease.”