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Speaker discusses his substance abuse history with F-M students

Ken Bartolo speaks to Fayetteville-Manlius High School students on March 3.
Ken Bartolo speaks to Fayetteville-Manlius High School students on March 3.

March 9, 2017: A former high school and college athlete recently shared with Fayetteville-Manlius High School students how his use of drugs and alcohol negatively impacted the choices he made as a student and later in life as an adult.

On March 3, former professional athlete Ken Bartolo candidly discussed with students in grades 9-12 how his addictions cost him college scholarships, spanned across 27 years and ultimately landed him in state prison. 

“I was arrested 15 times, charged with four drunk driving offenses and was pronounced dead twice from drug-induced heart failure,” Mr. Bartolo said.

Mr. Bartolo attended Fayetteville-Manlius School District until his junior and senior years, which he spent at the Jamesville-DeWitt School District. He is a two-time all-county athlete and former professional lacrosse player. He also played football at the collegiate level. 

“I got caught doing marijuana at 17, but that didn’t stop me from using,” Mr. Bartolo said. “The drugs and alcohol led to a steady decline in my athletic career and in my life.”

Mr. Bartolo said his recovery came after a stay at the Syracuse Rescue Mission, where he went into a bathroom and prayed. He then called a friend who had recovered from drug addiction and alcoholism to ask for help. 

Six years after “rebooting” his life, Mr. Bartolo now travels to schools across New York state and talks with students about his experiences and how he overcame years of alcohol and drug addiction. 

The presentation is part of his motivational speaking program, There and Back, Inc. a not-for-profit organization dedicated to reducing drugs and alcohol abuse among students from elementary school to college, with an emphasis on student-athletes, according to its website. 

“The presentation is a brutally honest look at the violence and insanity of the world of addiction and how it can destroy the lives of the most promising of our youth,” according to the organization’s website.

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