By Isabel Montesanto,
Da Vinci Charter Academy alumnus Connor Herdt had a tumultuous high school experience. Herdt, who regularly skipped class to smoke cigarettes and get high on ecstasy and cocaine, says that he doesn’t believe he was addicted, but that his problem was “a reckless disregard for those around me and the responsibilities that are required of us as people.”
Halfway through his sophomore year, Herdt was finally kicked off the baseball team for bad grades–this was the first concrete consequence he’d experienced for his drug use. That April, he was suspended indefinitely for being caught with a knife at school.
“I had put myself in a situation where the only option I had left was to continue on the path I was on, and I was happy to do just that,” Herdt said.
Eventually, his parents felt they had no option but to intervene. When they first suggested that he go to treatment, he ran away for three days. The second time, he was taken by escorts to a plane in the middle of the night.
Herdt spent 10 weeks in a therapeutic wilderness program in Utah, a brief time at a boarding school in Idaho and a semester in Costa Rica. In total, he was away from home for 14 months.
Herdt says his time in Utah had the greatest influence on his current lifestyle. He had never been exposed to true wilderness before, and the passion for it that he discovered during the program has been lasting.
“All of it was totally, radically different than anything I’d ever experienced,” Herdt said. “I came to love it out there.”
Now, Herdt works in outdoor recreation in the Tahoe area; in the summer, he leads whitewater raft trips in Idaho, and in all of his remaining time he can be found in his kayak.
To high school students currently dealing with drug abuse or addiction, Herdt’s advice is to discover or rediscover a passion and pursue it.
“Don’t sell your world short,” he said. “It can be so much larger than you ever imagined it could be, if you just let it grow.”