0.98 seconds. That’s how quickly the course of Keith Parson’s life changed. It’s less time than it took you to read the last sentence. It’s also how long it took for his free-falling body to hit the asphalt parking lot from a drug-induced leap from a three story building.
Fortunately, Keith has spent much of his time since then developing and refining a plan to help other young people avoid making similar choices... and having to live with similar consequences.
Following his high school graduation in 1990, Keith and his friends drove to Ocean City, Maryland, for Senior Week. While there, he experimented with LSD for the first time. Under the influence of the drug, he suffered debilitating spinal cord injuries in his neck and back. At first, Keith thought all his dreams had shattered along with the vertebra in his back.
He spent the next several months in and out of surgery and rehab. Slowly, he began to regain some of his abilities and, with them, his spirit and his independence. Over time, with a lot of love and support from his family--and with the aid of attendant care and assistive technology from
UCP--Keith began again to pursue some of his dreams. Those dreams included getting not one, but two college degrees, and finding a way to fulfull his passion to help others.
Today, Keith holds a BS in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and a Masters in Education in Curriculum and Instruction, with a focus on Earth & Space Sciences, also from PSU. More importantly, today, Keith is dedicating his life’s work to helping students make better choices than he did. His entreprenurial undertaking as a motivational speaker allows him to meld his education, his desire to work with students, and his life experience to benefit others.
His goal is to reduce the incidence of substance abuse among teens and to prevent the suffering it causes both the users and the families who love them and who are left to care for them following a debilitating injury such as his.
I don’t try to tell kids to change their nature. I don’t tell them to avoid all risk; I know from my own experience that you might as well tell the ocean to hold back the tides.
Instead, Keith challenges students to channel their risky behaviors into healthy risk-taking opportunities, such as playing a sport, taking up an instrument, or getting involved in another supervised after-school activity.
By incorporating elements of pop culture, statistics, and science into his interactive presentation, Keith serves as a powerful, memorable, and living testament to the dangers and potential consequences of substance abuse. He also shows humor, humility, and above all, the hope and resilience of the human spirit.
Read Keith's full story in the Summer/Fall 2009 Issue of Life Without Limits
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