LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Long Beach High holds its prom this weekend. On Thursday, students received a powerful reminder of why they should avoid underage drinking and other dangerous choices.
The Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force invited a speaker who has endured years of trauma and is now changing young lives.
A shattered car parked outside Long Beach High School serves as a shocking reminder of what can happen if young people drink and drive. One man wants every student who goes to prom this Saturday to make it home alive.
"As you know, high school, prom night, hey, let's booze it up. And I wanted to encourage them not to do that. I wanted to encourage them to live differently," said Danny Pierson.
Pierson knows all too well the value of every young life. He is the executive director of Higher Bound, a center for at-risk children in Indiana. How he ended up running the ministry is quite a remarkable story.
"I had teachers along my life journey invest in me, tell how important I was, amidst the hurricane of chaos in my life," said Pierson.
That chaos started when Pierson was only six-years-old. He said his dad threatened to kill the entire family.
"He pulls a butcher knife from between the cushions, and his next words were this, 'Who's first?'" said Pierson.
Pierson said he also endured poverty, homelessness, and two years of sexual abuse.
"I was at the end of my rope. At age 16, I tried to take my own life," he said.
Pierson believes he survived, because people came into his life who told him he was loved. He wants to honor those pastors, teachers and friends by reaching out to other teens who are struggling.
"You see the pain, you see the anguish, you see the hurt in their lives. Don't let one more day go by when you don't invest in somebody's life," said Pierson.
"It was great just to hear his personal struggles. I know a lot of people that could apply them to their lives," said Long Beach High Senior Katie Demetz. "Just be thankful for what you have right now, that you're alive today."
"I think it was a very powerful message. I think we can all learn from it. Definitely we need to be more careful about what we do. We need to show more affection towards people," said Long Beach High Senior Billy Beland.
And Pierson left them with this message: Don't let others define who you are.
"You guys, I'm going to challenge you to live above your labels, to live a higher life, a better life, because life is worth living," said Pierson. "Let people invest in your life, too. I promise you, life will get better."
Pierson also spoke to parents and community leaders during a luncheon in Long Beach, as well as to the middle school and alternative school students.