By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Opening with a few rock music numbers in the school auditorium, a former student at Chase County Schools had the attention of youths as he presented an anti-drug, anti-alcohol message.
Addressing grade 7-12 students at the Monday afternoon assembly, Mike Smith, who graduated here in 2001, admitted he used alcohol and drugs in high school.
Shortly after moving here midway through his eighth grade year, Smith said he got in with the “wrong crowd.” That led to use of alcohol and later on, drugs, which he said made him a different person than he was.
Some of the alcohol use was done to impress a girl, which didn’t work either. She told him he had something wrong with him.
At the age of 16, he learned his father was diagnosed with cancer. It hit him hard, he said, but he continued his former ways, but said, “It didn’t satisfy me anymore.”
Then, another defining moment arrived when he was the passenger in a car that got pulled over by a State Patrol officer. Both boys had been drinking.
The former officer who lived in Imperial sat him down next to him in the car.
“He told me I was a good kid and had a lot going for me,” Smith said. “Then, he gave me a second chance.”
No ticket was issued, but the officer told Smith to get out and walk home. It did make him think, Smith said.
“There have been other speakers up here, saying the same things I am and I blew them off,” while in high school, Smith said.
“I realize now that all the things I thought I was were not setting me up for success,” he said.
“All that stuff I was doing pulled me further away from my dreams.”
Smith told the students he knows they have dreams, too. He’s glad he pulled away from the destructive activity when he did.
It doesn’t always happen that way. He told of a friend who didn’t pull away from that lifestyle, and died in a car crash.
Smith, now a youth pastor at the Lincoln Berean Church, has been traveling around the country with VOTA, a Christian rock band. Smith isn’t a band member, but travels with the group on their 180 Tour, sharing his message with youths around the country.
He said the name of their tour has a message.
“That’s why it’s called that. It’s a chance to make a 180 turn,” he said.
Earlier in the assembly, the VOTA’s lead singer invited two students and a teacher to the stage for a “Chase County Idol” dance competition.
On an applause vote from the crowd, teacher Carl Zuege was the easy winner, outdoing students senior Nichole Dickey and sixth grader Jeffrey Dickey.
VOTA, whose members are from Lincoln, came back to the school Monday evening for a more extended concert.