A former junkie who spent time in jail for a crime wave is giving talks at schools to help students avoid the horrors of meth and other drugs.
Paris Mitchell, 27, conceded that as a former drug addict and ex-con, he was not the best role model to invite into a classroom.
But he said he managed to connect to vulnerable students in a way that most adults can not because he understands the pressures that can lead them down the wrong path.
Mr Mitchell said it was important to dismantle the romanticised image that some teens have about drugs until they are too deeply caught up in them to extricate themselves.
“The kids see their friend’s older brother who is a drug dealer and has a nice car,” he said.
“That’s what they are seeing, because that’s what I was seeing. It wasn’t until I was in too deep that I saw that when you go down this path, what you really see is your friends die and the women you know turning to prostitution.”
He said some of his drug-taking friends had committed suicide, some had gone missing, one had been murdered in front of him and many had gone to jail.
Mr Mitchell started taking drugs at age 12, when he stole his father’s marijuana and alcohol to cope with his difficult home life and bullying at school.
He gradually got hooked on stronger drugs and committed crimes to pay for his habit. He was jailed for several crimes, including armed robbery, at age 20.
“I didn’t think there was a different way of doing things. I didn’t think I was capable of doing things in a different manner.
“You feel as though that’s the destiny for your life.”
He said a key message for students was to instil in them the belief that they had the power to make their own decisions.
“It’s about giving children the understanding that what you see around you, if you know it’s not right, then you actually have the choice to go against that.
“Ultimately they are not their parents. They are not their brothers and sisters. They are not their friends.
“They are their own individual people with their own individual path in life.”
He started turning his life around five years ago, and now has a university degree. He said schools told him his talks had a lasting impact.