Local and national speakers addressed Horicon High School students Friday in an effort to prevent addiction and promote positive mental health.
Rise Together, an Appleton-based nonprofit captured the student’s attention by presenting several people who shared personal stories of substance abuse and recovery.
Nadine Machkovech, a Beaver Dam native, co-founded the organization that seeks to create a community where youth are heard, loved and inspired to live in hope.
The group’s work has been recognized by the White House Office of the National Drug Control Policy.
“Most people think we are going to talk about all the bad things and all the deaths and tell them to just say no to drugs because it’s just that easy to do,” Machkovech said. “It’s not and it’s hard for smaller communities to admit there are problems.”
Co-founder Anthony Alvarado said that by sharing his scars with others, he can help other people heal. He encouraged students to tell their story, support one another and work together as a community to prevent things like addiction, suicide or bullying.
“It takes self-awareness, acceptance, the ability to surrender and courage to overcome life’s challenges,” he said. “In order to build and maintain hope, we have to strive towards something that we believe in.”
Ryan Hampton, a former White House staffer and author of “American Fix,” has been in recovery for four years from a decade-long opioid addiction. He spoke about the difficulty of losing a friend in high school to suicide.
“Next time you see a classmate, ask them how they really are. Treat them with love and empathy. Treat them with compassion and understanding. We never really know what’s happening in each other’s lives,” he said. “They are a worthy human being and the words you say to them have a lasting impact on who they become. Be kind.”
Middle school advocate Kellen Geschke and professional musician Lee Turner, both of Horicon, also gave poignant accounts of addiction, recovery and hope.
Machkovech said those who speak out are incredibly brave and must to be listened to in order to make a change in communities.
“If we don’t hear about the negative, how are we ever going to move into the positive?” she said “People are carrying the weight on their back and don’t know how to talk. A simple ‘How are things going?’ can lead to a conversation that is needed.”
Following the assembly at Horicon High School, Rise Together joined in the sixth annual Rally for Recovery Saturday at the state Capitol in Madison.
Machkovech served as the emcee for the event. Keynote speakers, who are all in recovery, included Hampton, Turner and former University of Wisconsin football star Montee Ball.
Kellen Geschke also spoke about how his uncle’s addiction affected him as a child.
According to organizers, about 2,000 people came out to share the successes of individuals in recovery, learn more about the recovery resources available in Wisconsin, and praise the dedication of treatment providers, peer supporters and others who help individuals achieve wellness.