By Danny Schrafel
Darryl St. George is many things – a Navy veteran and a Northport High School history teacher, to name a few – but first and foremost, he’s a brother.
Inspired by the sudden death of his younger brother in June 2012, he returned to the front lines of battle – this time in the drug war – where he hopes to win the fight for young hearts and minds.
The latest outgrowth of this passion was a Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) summit held Jan. 21 at Northport High School, drawing students from St. Anthony’s, Half Hollow Hills, Elwood, Commack, Cold Spring Harbor, Brentwood and Kings Park high schools.
“This is really just the beginning. My hope is that we’ll start something that will really spread beyond Northport,” St. George said. “The problem that we’re dealing with is a cultural one... It’s going to take time, it’s going to take the youth… they are the ones that are on the front line,” he said.
His brother, Corey St. George, is one of the casualties of the drug war, having died of a heroin overdose June 23, 2012. While older brother Darryl was serving the U.S. Navy in Afghanistan and working to confiscate poppy – the source material of heroin, of which Afghanistan supplies about 90 percent of the world’s supply – his younger brother was slipping into the grips of addiction.
“The irony is that while I was doing that, my brother started using it,” he said.
After his brother’s sudden death, Darryl St. George was discharged from the Navy in November 2012 and soon after returned to the classroom; a month later, he was Northport High School’s SADD adviser.
“He’s a big reason why I became an adviser to that club,” he said of his brother.
Last Wednesday’s summit also aimed to drive the point home that the war on drugs is not restricted to just one zip code.
“There seems to be this perception that Northport has this serious drug problem. There’s no question about that – the implication that it’s exclusively a Northport problem,” St. George said. “Northport is not unique in this, but the problem is all over Long Island. The difference is Northport is talking about it.”
So, too, is the Huntington School District, where on the same night as Northport’s SADD forum, the Huntington High School PTSA hosted an anti-drug and alcohol presentation featuring speakers from the Life Center in Huntington village.
Already, St. George and SADD are hoping to take steps to keep the momentum going. He has built a mailing list of student leaders at the seven high schools who attended last week’s summit and will be reaching out to set a follow-up meeting.
“We managed to inspire and motivate the kids, which was our goal,” St. George said.
He and Northport Police Department leaders have met and the department is offering their assistance, Lt. Bill Ricca said during a Jan. 20 board meeting.
St. George said it’s little coincidence that the summit was held the same week as the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
“There’s definitely some parallels to what we’re trying to do. The parallel is that, Dr. King was trying to change the culture… I feel that’s what we’re trying to do with this problem,” he said.