‘Sold Out’ program stresses alcohol abstinence
Roman Gabriel III grew up with football in his blood.
As the oldest son of a former NFL quarterback, Gabriel knew what kind of effort and dedication it took to reach one's goals.
Gabriel also grew up with alcoholism in his blood.
His grandmother and younger brother both struggled with alcohol, and the negative impact this had on Gabriel turned his life after football into a crusade against addiction.
On Monday, Gabriel, who also played in the NFL, paid a visit to Finch Auditorium to convey his message of alcohol abstinence to students from Thomasville High School and Thomasville Middle School. Gabriel presented students his “Sold Out Alcohol-Abstinence and Character Program,” a new initiative that stresses accountability, responsibility and goal-setting.
“I saw lot of my friends growing up who had talent and abilities who could've went where I went to play professional football get derailed because of alcohol and drugs,” Gabriel, president of Sold Out Ministries, said. “What's exciting about this program is it's one that we've taken a lot successful programs in the past and kind of melted them together.”
Gabriel created “Sold Out” more than two years ago and plans to be in approximately 20 percent of schools across the state by the fall. A key to the initiative is seeing students three times between their sixth and 12th grade years in school.
Gabriel briefly spoke to students before showing a short video comprised of famous athletes telling their success stories of what it took to reach their dreams.
Once the presentation was over, students were asked to sign a alcohol abstinence pledge at soldouttv.com, a website connected to social media where teenagers can share their experiences and interact with each other.
“We have about 3,500 students who are involved in our different networks,” said Gabriel. “We get a lot of feedback from a lot of youngsters who are on our sites on a regular basis. A lot of them contact us about dealing with problems at home or peer pressure. The kids get engaged. It's like a fire. You get a couple of them engaged and it spreads.”
Gabriel feels it's important to reach kids at an early age.
“We're very excited about the direction we're going in,” Gabriel said. “I think we can put a dent in this, we just need to get more serious about this generation of kids. A lot of parents are doing the right thing but some of them aren't engaged the way they should. In this day and time, if you're not engaged with all that's out there for kids you're in a lot of trouble.”
Mary Jane Akerman, wellness coordinator for Thomasville City Schools, said Gabriel's message is another way to emphasize what teachers and coaches are telling students all the time.
“This is really a part of a lot of the things we do for our education and prevention in our schools,” said Akerman. “This falls in line with the health curriculum our students get and the message they get on goal-setting and making responsible decisions.”
With prom only a few weeks away, Gabriel's message resonated with students.
“It was very motivating,” Shakemia Matthews, a 18-year-old senior, said. “He's very inspiring in helping people know not to do drugs. I've got a family that drinks a lot and I've lost people in car accidents so it really motivated to not drink alcohol or do drugs.”
Janazer Hopkins said Gabriel motivated her to chase after her dreams.
“I thought he had a lot of information and it was unique because everything he said I want in life,” said Hopkins. “I don't drink or do drugs at all, but it's something that is motivating me.”
Gabriel said it's important for students to know their own history when it relates to alcohol use.
“What kids don't realize is their first drink could be their last if they have that disposition,” Gabriel said. “My younger brother started drinking in high school and became an alcoholic. We didn't find out until he was 31 that he drank every day. We have that in our family, my grandmother had a problem with alcohol. We're trying to get kids, as part of the pledge, to go home and talk with their parents about it. Many of the kids we speak to have parents or someone in their home who struggle with it. I think that's a great first step — to have a conversation.”
“Sold Out” provides participating schools with follow-up online videos about alcohol abstinence and character curriculum throughout the year.
Gabriel's father, Roman Gabriel II, played 16 years in the NFL and won the league MVP award in 1969.
For more information, call Gabriel at 910-431-6483 or visit soldouttv.com.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.