HOUSTON – Oct. 30, 2018 – Approximately 120 Westfield High School students had no idea Monday that what seemed to be an assembly on drunk driving would also include a visit from Houston Rockets star James Harden.
The 2018 NBA MVP and his mother Monja Willis were on hand to speak to students about the dangers of drinking and driving. The program, sponsored by Harden’s 3 The Harden Way Foundation and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office also included remarks by representatives from the Harris County Sheriff’s Department, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Uber and Spring ISD Police Department.
“People that you surround yourself with, that’s important nowadays, and I’m blessed and lucky to have friends that I’ve known since I was 12 that you would call ‘day ones’,” Harden told the students. “These friends came with me all the way from LA, and we never got into drugs and stayed away from alcohol. I’m not going to say I was a straight A student, but I was an athlete, and I tried to make the best out of my situation. It took a lot of focus.”
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg also spoke at the event and reminded students that they are responsible for making good personal decisions, including avoiding people and situations that can lead to trouble.
“You have to monitor yourselves,” said Ogg. “No one can [remove] you out of situations except for you. We’re here to help. We’re not just here to say ‘don’t do this or that.’”
Students also participated in simulated drunk driving exercises and listened to multiple speakers from local law enforcement agencies share personal stories of not just drugs and alcohol, but the dangers of texting and driving.
“For the families with kids who aren’t coming home, that’s the worse,” said Ogg. “And it’s so hard to talk to people who are never going to see their child again.”
Harden spoke briefly before choosing several students to participate with him in an open panel discussion about what they learned throughout the presentation.
“All of this feeds into one thing, and that’s character,” said Westfield High senior Ian Polk. “What you do when no one is looking.”
Harden also shared his personal story about making it to the NBA and said his success has paved the way for his family and future generations. He told students he didn’t allow drugs or bad influences to take him away from his goals.
“I had my fun, but when it was time to get serious and time for a test or practice, that’s what it was,” said Harden. “I’m not telling you guys not to have fun, because you’re still young. But when it’s time to walk in and handle responsibilities, that’s what has to be done and the other stuff can wait.”
All students who attended the event were given Adidas backpacks filled with items from both Harden and participating event sponsors. In addition, students were encouraged to participate in an essay contest for a chance to win floor seats to a Rockets’ game or a pair of James Harden basketball shoes.
“We talk about drunk driving and how dangerous it is, how we can prevent it and how it can affect not only the person that’s driving, but it can affect people they have accidents with,” said Principal David Mason. “A lot of times, it affects families, but the effects cannot be seen or put into words because sometimes it changes lives forever.”