Kristen Johnston delivered an emotional speech at Lavelle Prep and New Ventures' "Futures of Education Luncheon" at the Hilton Garden Inn Friday. The actress and addiction advocate was the keynote speaker for the annual event.
"Staten Island is struggling a lot with their kids and addiction, especially with heroin and opiate-based substances," said Johnston.
"We've gotten real good at getting out the message to kids about the dangers of substance abuse, we haven't done near a good enough job at working with kids who don't heed the warnings," explained Dr. Ken Byalin, the President of Lavelle Prep and New Ventures Charter Schools.
In August, Johnston's non-profit, Sobriety, Learning and Motivation or SLAM, launched a recovery program at Lavelle Prep for students struggling with addiction--the first of its kind in New York City.
"Basically, it's a non-punishment scenario. And we just want to present people with the option that there's some place for you to go," said Johnston.
"We are instituting programs to educate the teachers and make them aware of some of the issues that are likely already going on in their classroom," added Thomas Krauss, the Co-Founder of SLAM.
Organizers hope that the program can eventually become a model for schools across the country.
"Young people are in schools more than they are anyplace else, it's really up to the schools, we think to figure out a way to be supportive of kids who are struggling with recovery," said Dr. Byalin.
"Thank God for Lavelle Prep, thank God for Staten Island, who is actually at the forefront now of a groundbreaking program that is going to hopefully change the United States," said Johnston.
For more information on SLAM, visit their web site.