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Former addict shares story at school

YES FEST encourages healthy choices

HOWLAND — Luke Wollet, a former Kent State University football player from Poland, shared his story of drug addiction and recovery with Howland High School students Friday morning during the school’s third annual YES FEST. The Ecent encourages students to say “yes” to healthy living and good choices and “no” to illegal substances.

“The first drug I ever used was sports,” said Wollet, who said he wanted to be a professional football player from the age of 6.

As a freshman, he was starting for Kent State University when he sustained an injury to his ankle. Wollet played through the season and had surgery afterward, which is when he said he was introduced to pain killers.

By his junior year, Wollet was projected to be a third-round draft pick, but he sustained a second injury — a torn MCL — during a 2013 game against Louisiana State University. He said he turned to illegal painkillers so he could finish the season.

“I made a very small, innocent decision,” Wollet said. “Bad decisions take you further than you want to go.”

He soon became addicted to heroin, and after a fall from grace and lost opportunities, he said he

considered taking his own life, but was dissuaded by an act of love from his father.

Now three years sober, Wollet told students the key to a positive life is having good friends, being willing to accept help and loving unconditionally.

He encouraged students to lift up peers who are suffering.

“There’s always someone with something going on in the room,” Wollet said later. For the past year-and-a-half, he has been sharing his story, hoping to connect with students through sports. He said he wants them to take away the importance of kindness toward others.

At the fest, students also had the opportunity to meet vendors from organizations encouraging healthy living. Represented were service organizations like the Warren Family Mission, health professionals like Mercy Health, recruiters from the U.S. Army and universities, and many of the high school’s clubs.

Cathy McCauley, a sophomore at the school, spoke to students about the youth organization 4-H while holding her rabbit, Antwon.

She said she and her sister, who are raising 10 rabbits through 4-H this year, were trying to get other students interested in joining the group.

Senior Lindsey Shrodek and her best friend Maria Scottodiuccio set up a table for students to paint “Promise Rocks” for the Howland Hope Garden, located on campus behind the gym, which Shrodek started. Shrodek said the rocks are meant to encourage unity in the student body through the promise of rejecting substances.

Outside, students mingled with township safety service officers and explored fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicles.

“The event incorporates the community,” said Meghan Durig, organizer of YES FEST. “The kids really enjoy it.”

Durig said students were given free t-shirts, supported by sponsors, and students who visited enough vendors could be entered into raffles to win small prizes.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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