When the 657 members of the Herndon High School freshman class filled the auditorium Monday morning, they had no idea what they were about to experience.
Walking out from a side entrance, dressed in oversized Michael Jordan sweat pants and a Hard Knocks football jersey, Scot Anthony Robinson didn't resemble a typical guest speaker.
Once Robinson took an imaginary hit of heroin and acted out a suicide scene of hanging himself in his jail cell, students realized the next 90 minutes would be spent discussing drugs and addiction.
"Young people each day are dying," screamed Robinson, a New York City actor who has spoken to more than one million young people across the country through his Vision Warrior program.
"It doesn't matter if it's the Bronx or Greenwich, Conn.," said Robinson after the assembly. "Kids are basically all the same — I want to help empower them to realize and identify themselves."
THROUGH THE SUPPORT of the Herndon High School PTSA, the Greater Herndon Community Coalition, the Dulles Hyatt and Signature Companies, Robinson was brought to educate students not only about drugs and alcohol, but how easy it is to get addicted.
"I haven't been through what he's been through, so I can't tell about it like he does," said Lisa Lombardozzi, HHS PTSA president, about the impact of his presentation.
Robinson's blunt, no lies approach to drug addiction hits his audience hard.
"It was different from what I expected," said Lombardozzi. "It was stronger and more intense than I had expected."
Robinson explains how his first hit of marijuana at age 11 — paired with his desire of acceptance — resulted in his more than 20-years of drug addictions, eventual homelessness and finally two years spent in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center.
"I started out using 3 to 4 bags of dope a day," said Robinson about his transfer from snorting cocaine to heroin. "I got up to 10 to 12 bags — or a bundle plus two bags [of heroin] — that's $120 a day."
Robinson, who, before his deterioration had acted in such films and television series as "Malcolm X", "Clockers", "New York Undercover" and "All My Children," said he moved to Los Angeles to try and escape the drug scene, but instead discovered crack-cocaine.
UPON HIS RETURN to New York City, Robinson ended up on the streets.
"In six months I lost 62-pounds, I didn't shower, I didn't brush my teeth," said Robinson to the silent crowd.
He explained the next year was one drug binge to the next and such a blur that he had a total disregard for his hygiene — causing him to almost lose his hand and arm due to an infection.
"I think the final point was my hand," said Robinson about why he contacted his ex-girlfriend after a year on the streets for help. "I was thinking, 'this is going to affect me getting high.'"
After being admitted to Bellevue Hospital then sneaking out and overdosing, he was eventually admitted to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center where he stayed for two years.
"Have I ever thought about going back and doing drugs?" repeated Robinson of one student's question. "I've had the thought — but I don't make that choice."
Robinson explained after his rehabilitation he realized it was a miracle he was still alive, and wanted to make sure youths were aware that they control their future.
"I'm pleading with you, keep it real, speak your truth," said Robinson. "Don't do like I did ... I deferred things — I hid."
Sheila Colbert, HHS assistant principal and 9th grade advisor, said she thinks Robinson's technique of being brutally honest and being in their face appeals to students.
"He had the point of view of students," said Colbert. "He relates, as opposed to just another adult speaking to them — he's speaks to them, not at them."
Colbert said Robinson hits the issues that if students are not facing them now, some day soon they will.
"Students and young people today, they're exposed to so many temptations," she said.
AFTER THE PRESENTATION Robinson met with the students in smaller groups throughout the day, speaking on a more personal level about the problems high school students face.
"The bottom line is, young people are still yearning for some kind of connection," said Robinson.
Although this was his first presentation at HHS, Lombardozzi said drug and alcohol abuse awareness is an important topic and after surveying his effectiveness, they could ask Robinson to return.
Until then, Robinson hopes his message will stick with the freshmen as life hits them with conflicts and challenges.
"Listen young people, you got stress? Good. You feel isolated, alone, scared? Good. You know why? Life's like that, " said Robinson in his presentation. "Life's a journey you need to feel, you to need to experience."