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NECN: Mike Cronin

Coming face to face with addiction, a new program aims to educate young people about substance abuse and its consequences.

Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis tells students at Sullivan Middle School in Worcester to stay away from drugs. He says a lot of people end up in his jail after they started using drugs.

“Because I learned from the inmates that 90-percent of them are in prison because of addictions to drugs and alcohol and almost all of them started doing drugs and alcohol when they were in middle and high school.”

For the past two years, Evangelidis has visited almost 50,000 kids in the county presenting his program called face to face. Using pictures and videos, Evangelidis says he shows students the dangers of drugs through examples they can relate to.

“Well I show the before and after photographs of people like Lindsay Lohan. I show where she was a famous movie star, now she’s famous for being in courtrooms and being in prison and they laugh but they get it.”

“It’s real. It’s relatable,” says Jason Defalco, Sullivan Middle School principal.

Principal Defalco says the message is current. He’s already planning on having the sheriff back next year.

“He used a lot of different kind of visual clips, music. He really got the kids’ attention and the message again was relevant.”

Eighth grader Michael Safo Agyeman says some of the visuals were scary but it shows how drugs can harm people.

“I think a lot of people they don’t want to end up like that. That they want to have good, successful lives. That they want to have jobs in the future and not end up in jail.”

Michael was among 800 7th and 8th graders listening to the program on Tuesday. Evangelidis says even at that age, kids are getting involved with drugs. If they’re not, he wants to at least bring the message to them.

“And I believe every time I do this, we’re going to save somebody from making those choices, maybe more than one.”