CHAMPAIGN — Nicotine, marijuana and alcohol.
The three substances that Michael DeLeon believes become the foundation of addiction in kids, and which now include vaping.
DeLeon is an ex-offender who, after eight years of drug addiction and gang involvement, spent 12 years in prison and halfway houses for a gang-related homicide. In 2007, after his release, he founded Steered Straight Inc., a nonprofit designed to educate youth on the dangers of drugs, gang involvement and associated criminal activity.
Next week, DeLeon will bring his “Vaping Me Crazy” seminar, a presentation on youth e-cigarette and vaping prevention, to 10 area schools.
“I believe vaping and the use of e-cigarettes among adolescents is the greatest threat to this generation, both in developing addiction to drugs and as a health threat,” DeLeon said.
“Their developing brains and bodies are more susceptible to not only nicotine, but all of the chemicals that are used in these devices,” he said. “The tobacco companies are actually doing today what they did for more than 50 years — targeting kids to become addicted to nicotine.”
According to Steered Straight’s website, DeLeon has become the No. 1 booked school presenter in the country.
He and a team of speakers travel to every state in America to give presentations, with vaping being his main subject matter. And East Central Illinois has become a focal point.
“We want to focus on the central part of the country, as that is the fastest-growing for youth use of marijuana and nicotine,” he said. “Central Illinois needs this message, as does every region of America, but we want to make a quick and effective difference in the middle of America.
“Illinois is a major focus for our prevention message.”
DeLeon will be speaking at middle and high schools in Arcola, Tuscola and Villa Grove on Monday; Arthur and Cerro Gordo on Tuesday; and Monticello and Bement on Wednesday.
He will also host Parent Academies, which will be open to the public, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Arthur-Lovington/Atwood Hammond High School and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bement High School.
At 6 p.m. Sunday, DeLeon will speak at an open presentation at Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox Church, 2010 Three Hierarchs Court, C.
The sessions are sponsored by Marisa’s Purpose: Faith, Hope, Love. Additional information is available on their website, marisaspurpose.org.