By Kelsey Abbruzzese/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Posted Aug 26, 2009 @ 12:41 AM
ASHLAND — School officials have invited Plainville resident Kathi Meyer, whose 17-year-old daughter, Taylor, died after a night of drinking, to speak at their substance abuse awareness program in September.
Meyer has outlined her story to 30 schools since January, telling parents to talk to their children about substance abuse and telling students they're not invincible. Taylor Meyer drowned in a Norfolk swamp last October after drinking at a homecoming party.
"Kids come up to me and say, 'you're just like my mom. I could never leave my mom like this,"' Meyer said yesterday. "They get it that it wasn't like Taylor was a rebel child. She was just like anybody else."
Meyer and Bill Phillips of New Beginnings in Framingham are scheduled to speak to high school students during their lunch periods on Sept. 14. She and Phillips will later give a presentation to parents and other members of the public after a dinner at the school.
In the past, the event has drawn over 300 people, Ashland High School Principal Mike Tempesta said. He and other school staffers are expecting many more this year to hear the speakers' stories.
The event is mandatory for student-athletes, their parents and coaches. But Ashland officials believe Meyer's and Phillips' message can extend beyond those groups.
"The message is profound," said new athletic director Jim Adams, who said he saw Phillips' presentation when he worked as an assistant principal in Millbury. Phillips founded the New Beginnings programs in 1985 to promote awareness about alcoholism and other addictions, with an emphasis on teenagers. "It's a benefit for all students to hear, and it's the best message to hear heading into the season," Adams said.
Meyer said she's not familiar with Ashland students, but that she knows many towns are struggling with underage drinking.
At the arraignment for a group of teenagers about a month after Taylor's death, Meyer took back the pink bracelets she gave them memorializing her daughter. She said they didn't deserve them.
"I think every town knows what kids are doing but they don't think bad things are happening. I'm proof that they can," Meyer said.
During Meyer's presentation, a slideshow of photos run behind her: Taylor with her friends, Taylor with her family, Taylor putting an angel atop the Christmas tree. She tells students to watch out for each other and give them the perspective that what happened to Taylor could happen to them. To parents, Meyer tells them what happened that Friday night and what she wishes she did differently.
"Taylor and I had a very open relationship," she said. "But it blew my mind, the things I found out after the fact. You just don't know."
Meyer hasn't been back to speak at Taylor's school, King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham, but she said she would continue to speak about the events surrounding her daughter's death.
"Otherwise, she's just some poor kid who drowned in the woods after drinking. There's no way that's who she was," Meyer said.
"It's something I'm going to have to do forever, unfortunately," Meyer said. "I still don't know how the hell I do it."