This past week was a tough one to stomach for parents.
Drugs have had an ever-present existence here in the Capital District. Those of us raised here in the suburbs can identify the substance of choice during our days of attending public schools. Some of us even catch ourselves reflecting upon the days of sneaking a beer in the woods.
The mistake is thinking the problem ends there.
By the grace of all that is holy, many of us stopped ourselves short of experimenting with a can of beer or a cigarette. Many of us had the presence of mind that there’s a darker path beyond innocent experiments. Many of us had the circle of friends who, together, were not going to go down that path.
Nevertheless, comparing our days to the present world is akin to listening to Top 40 radio and turning the knob in disgust. You’re tuning yourself out from what our children are going through.
This past week rocked our communities. It started on Tuesday afternoon, when Colonie Police announced it apprehended two individuals they say were involved with the August murder of Colonie hairdresser, Jacquelyn Porreca.
The man said to have stabbed Porreca, Michael Chmielewski, was a model student at Colonie Central High School. Before graduating in 2010, he represented the Garnet Raiders on the wrestling mat and earned the President’s Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence to top several more scholastic accolades. He went on to college. He had an apparent path for a bright future.
Five years later, according to police, that path was eclipsed by a violent event involving a knife, money and an alleged need for heroin.
Two days later, Bethlehem Central High School hosted a Bethlehem Opportunities Unlimited-sponsored seminar to help parents talk to kids about the evil of drugs. This school district received a wake-up call of its own a month ago when 17-year old Nathan Sunderhaft was arrested with what police said were prescription drugs, MDMA, a fake license and more than $1,700 cash. All reportedly found in his car, parked outside the school. The drugs are concerning enough. Parents look to the amount of money and quickly associate other dangers that usually surround that amount of money. The white noise of a Gary Coleman and Nancy Reagan dialogue led by a “Just Say ‘No’ to Drugs” campaign has lifted. Approximately 200 parents and townspeople packed the school cafeteria to listen that night.
The following day, Chmielewski and Sean Moreland were both indicted by an Albany County grand jury. With the charges brought against them, Moreland is looking at 25 years to life, Chmielewski is looking at life without parole.
It’s important to point out, if Chmielewski and Moreland are found guilty, the 23- and 32-year old men each made his own choice. It wasn’t the fault of his parents. But, it sure speaks to how difficult a parent’s job is today.