There are many distractions a typical Upper St. Clair High Schooler faces—Facebook, sporting events, a night full of homework.
Mike Burch and assistant principal Jace Palmer find no problem getting the teenagers' attention. They hit students with the truth about heroin addiction.
"I believe strongly that fear can be a strong motivator in kids not wanting to experiment with drugs. These could be life and death type situations that we don't want our families to have to go through," Palmer said.
"You can hear a pin drop in the room," Burch said.
Burch's son, Bryan, an Upper St. Clair High School graduate, died from a heroin overdose in 2004.
For years Mike Burch kept his emotions bottled up, until Palmer asked him to share his son's story to some at-risk teens at the high school.
"It was very emotional," Burch said.
And when Burch couldn't speak, Palmer stepped in to continue the story.
"It is difficult at times. When we make our presentations we bring plenty of Kleenex," Palmer said.
"Mothers would stop me at Giant Eagle and thank me," Burch said.
Burch has now shared Bryan's story with every student at the high school by presenting to freshman health classes each year.
And tonight Burch and Palmer are bringing Bryan's story to parents, high school-aged children and community members—anyone who wishes to attend—with an hour-long presentation at the Upper St. Clair Community and Recreation Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9.
"They (parents) have no idea of the drain and time and energy to try and save a kid on drugs. It's a 24-hour job," Burch said.
Bryan's dream was to open a restaurant one day, so he started working the night shift at a restaurant to learn the business. When he told co-workers it was hard to stay awake, they offered him something to help. It was heroin. After one use, Bryan was hooked.
"He took it and that was it. Couldn't get away," Burch said.
"Be cognizant of the signs, be aware of the fact that hard drugs can certainly permeate suburban communities. For many drug dealers, students from upscale communities can serve as excellent clients," Palmer said. "Pain killers can be a gateway to using heroin. That's why parents can benefit (in hearing Bryan's story)."
"We just want one kid not to do it (heroin)," Burch said.
Anyone with questions should contact Gary Seech of the Upper St. Clair Youth Steering Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.