Ken was able to deliver a more raw, eye-opening presentation to our student-athletes grades 9-12 at the high school, and then was able to tailor his presentation to be age appropriate for our middle school students grades 6-8. With both audiences, Ken discussed positive decision making, recognizing negative peer pressure, asking for help as a strength rather than a weakness, and resilience. Ken’s presentations were quite inspiring and well-received by both students and staff.

Ken was easily the most impactful presentation we have ever had here. The students were silently awaiting his every word.

– Mike Sinacore

– Assistant Principal
Holland Patent Middle School

Hey Ken,

I was one of the kids you spoke to today at the holland patent middle school. Your speech was great and really helped a lot of people. Thank you for teaching me what to do and what not to do too. It was great meeting you and thanks for the speech.

– Student at Holland Patent Middle School

Ken was real, down to earth and talked the talk of real addictions, struggles and consequences! You could have heard a pin drop… the kids were so into him and his openly honest style.

– Geoff Baer

Bishop Ludden Jr/Sr High School

Dear Ken,

Today is 5 years since you spoke at my high school and I will be celebrating 5 years without opiates and the other substances tomorrow. I wanted to thank you and your staff for all the support. Your emails and the meetings we met at mean a lot to me and my family. I’m looking for jobs in computer repairs like we discussed. My friends and I still talk about your speech when we get together. You showed us what really matters in life. I hope to see you again soon let me know if your ever in the area. My mom says hi and were going out to celebrate tomorrow. I’m still going to meetings and reading the books you suggest.

Thanks again.

– Joseph
Ken Bartolo did a great job presenting to both our middle school and high school students! Ken was able to deliver a more raw, eye-opening presentation to our student-athletes grades 9-12 at the high school, and then was able to tailor his presentation to be age appropriate for our middle school students grades 6-8. With both audiences, Ken discussed positive decision making, recognizing negative peer pressure, asking for help as a strength rather than a weakness, and resilience. Ken’s presentations were quite inspiring and well-received by both students and staff. We thank Ken for sharing his story with the Rochester School Department!”

Thank you!

– Kaitlin Calculator, MSW, CPS

– Student Assistance Counselor & Prevention Specialist
Rochester Middle School
Opiates, vaping, and substance abuse are words we have all become far to familiar with and their effects. This year thanks to a grant from Jane Skantz,Jane E. Skantze, Certified Prevention Specialist (CPS), Substance Misuse Prevention Coordinator, Center for Population Health, Monadnock Voices for Prevention, Greater Monadnock Public Health Region ,Cheshire Medical Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health Affiliate Monadnock Regional Middle High School and Winchester Middle School collaborated to bring Ken Bartolo president and speaker from There and Back, Inc. to speak to our students. Ken is a former professional athlete and two sport college standout who shared his story of overcoming alcohol and substance abuse.

Ken’s incredibly, caring, honest and powerful presentation focused on prevention, education, self esteem and healthy decision making. We want to thank him for opening the lines of healthy communication between students, staff, and our communities. He made a lasting impression on us all.

Ken’s was the kick off for Red Ribbon Week and a variety of activities at each school. Red Ribbon is a national anti-drug campaign that is celebrated annually October 23-31. During Red Ribbon, young people in communities across the nation pledge to live a drug-free lifestyle by wearing red ribbons and participating in community-wide anti-drug events!

Red Ribbon Week is also a time to pay tribute to DEA Special Agent Kiki Camarena, whose death led to the creation of the Red Ribbon program. Today, millions of Americans all over the United States continue to wear red ribbons to symbolize their support for a united, drug-free nation.

We thank all who have assisted, collaborated, and funded Red Ribbon Week and living drug free.

– Jeannine Leclerc

– MRMHS Wellness Coordinator Integration Specialist
Missy Calderwood, Winchester Drug Free Community Coordinator

Excellent presentation and every school should host this presentation. Thankful for the time he spent with the students after the presentations to help them process.

– Missy

– Winchester school New Hampshire

hi! i was a student at the presentation today and did not get the chance to come up afterwards to thank you. thank you for an amazing speech. your words meant so much to me and my peers around me. a lot of people have come to our school to tell us not to vape or do drugs, but nothing like this speech. this presentation left me speechless and had me thinking about everything the whole day. thank you so much for your time mr. bartolo.

– Monadnock New Hampshire student

Hello all,

Letting you know Ken and Susan are on there way to Winchester and will meet Missy there.

He was incredible! The high school students gave him a standing ovation and the middle school were just as focused and impressed. Both groups asked great questions and Ken was engaging, sincere, and powerful.

Thank you for all for working together on this. The presentation, funding, and sharing it with so many students and staff.

Thank you Ken and Susan reminding me why I do this

My heart is happy!

– Jeannine

We were blessed to have the opportunity of Ken Bartolo speaking to our 350 students at Mount Abraham Union High School in Bristol, Vermont. Ken had the audience captivated for the entire show. We have not had the auditorium that quiet and engaged for a guest speaker ever! We highly recommend to have him come tell his emotional roller coaster to your students!

Quoting a Senior student, “That was the best inspirational speech I have ever heard.”

– Ryan Cornellier

– Safety and Wellness Coordinator

You could literally hear a pin drop at Churchville-Chili High School the night Ken spoke to our student-athletes, coaches, and parents. His message was extremely powerful and hit home to everyone. Ken delivered a highly enthusiastic, emotional, and motivational presentation. It was an outstanding way to start our athletic season. A great deal of positive praise was provided from all those in attendance. Ken delivered his real-life story about overcoming obstacles to reach your dreams and how everyone can do great things if they set goals and have passion towards them. The messages around being the best you can be and not traveling down the wrong path were very unique and absolutely served as a learning experience for all. Tears were also shed by members of our audience as they reflected on their own lives and family members during his presentation. I highly recommend this presentation to organizations and people of all age ranges. It is inspirational and can bond a group together with a common focus and goals. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have landed Ken. In life, it sometimes takes a man like Ken Bartolo to open your eyes to what is truly important in life.

– Michael Murray, CMAA

– Director of Health, PE & Athletics, Churchville-Chili Central School

Ken I made it to 8 months without any pills or alcohol. When you spoke at my school I thought who’s this bald old man but you changed my life. Your my hero and I wear the there and back bracelet you gave me every day. Football starts soon and my coaches think I’ll be the starting quarterback. I hope you can come to a game.

– Student Athlete

Mr. Bartolo,

Thank you for speaking at my school last week. I thought it was just going to be another don’t do drugs or drink speech like we have had before . You are the most courageous man I have ever met. My friends and I on the football team got together the next day and I admit we would drink, vape and pop pills from time to time. Especially on weekends and after games. You opened our eyes to the fact we were risking our careers. A lot of us are being recruited and we decided to stay away from anything that puts our season and careers at risk. I don’t know how you can tell that story over and over to so many people. All I know is I’m glad my friends and I got to hear it. I’ve never seen any of them cry but you taught us it’s ok. My parents and I went home to eat afterwards and we cried together. I don’t know if they told you but we lost three of my friends to overdose in the last two years. No one wanted to talk about it until you came. I don’t know how many people you have helped but I know that you helped my teammates and I. I will never forget you I don’t think my friends will either. You are my hero as I’m sure my friends feel too.

Thanks Again,

– Student Athletes

Ken Bartolo presented to the entire Junior class at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, over 600 students, in May of 2017. Ken’s message is a powerful one and he connected with the students. During the presentation the students were quiet and attentive, which is a rare occurrence. I have never attended a presentation where every student was so focused on the words of the speaker. Afterwards, many students approached Ken and personally thanked Ken for his presentation because it connected to their lives.

– Nikki Slater

“Mr. Bartolo’ story is a must for our students. He shares the tragedy of his battle with addiction…but he brings with him, a hope for recovery! His message is real, it is provocative, and is truly inspirational. He was able to capture the attention of an auditorium full of students and adults. He was able to insight an emotional response from the crowd and brought about a discussion well beyond the script. Rarely do you find a more relevant message with the strength of delivery seen with Mr. Bartolo!”


The Southern Cayuga community would like to thank Ken for his inspirational speech that he delivered to our 300, 7 th – 12 th graders. He tells it like it is. His genuine, gut wrenching tale of his battle with addiction kept the students mesmerized throughout the hour long presentation. The feedback from students and staff was positive, and had an effect on many members of the audience. It was one of the most powerful assemblies that I have seen in over 30 years of education. There and Back is a must see for all Jr./Sr. high school students.

– Catharine Haight

– Asst. Principal/ Athletic Director Southern Cayuga Schools

Hello Mr Bartolo, I was so impacted by your talk today at lowville that I dragged and talked my parents into coming and listening to you. We’ve had two cousins who were addicted to heroin and ended up committing suicide. Because of this, my parents were very moved. I am so glad you overcame addiction and decided to spread your story and inspire others… I’ve never seen a speaker at lowville keep all the students so quiet and attentive. You were by far one of the most convincing people I’ve ever heard. So thank you!

Job well done at Northport High School Prom meeting. I was there with my son. You brought me to tears numerous times with your touching story. I am so proud of you and thankful that you finally got the help you needed. Keep on doing what you’re doing!! Stay well❤

– Northport parent

Ken Bartolo presented to the entire Junior class at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, over 600 students, in May of 2017. Ken’s message is a powerful one and he connected with the students. During the presentation the students were quiet and attentive, which is a rare occurrence. I have never attended a presentation where every student was so focused on the words of the speaker. Afterwards, many students approached Ken and personally thanked Ken for his presentation because it connected to their lives.

– Nikki Slater

The growing problem regarding opioid and narcotic use in New York State and beyond sparked the need to bring awareness to our students and community. Ken Bartolo came highly recommended by surrounding school districts. Ken performed two presentations at our school district; one to our students during the school day and one to members of the community in the evening. Ken’s first hand experience with opioids and low self esteem created an honest, authentic and open presentation to both students and community members. He didn’t hesitate to answer any of the questions asked and was able to create a learning experience for all of his speaking points. After surveying our students, we concluded that over 70% of our students found the presentation to be helpful in learning about the dangers of drug addiction. I would recommend Ken Bartolo to neighboring school districts who aim to bring opioid and narcotic awareness to their students and community.

– Tri-Valley Secondary School

Ken’s presentation was by far the bravest most heartfelt and impactful we have had here at Wallkill CSD. We were able to put together an “I am Enough” project where students listed 10 reasons they like who they are. The follow up project was met with incredible enthusiasm due to the impact Ken had on our students and the value they must place on themselves as people. Students reported learning more about how they should live their lives more in a 1 hour presentation than in all their classes combined. In the evening Ken spoke to our community and once again nothing but praise for bringing him in to address a very important issue. I would highly recommend having Ken come speak to your students and community. He did an incredible job of communicating the dangers of substance abuse and how it affects not only the addict but family members as well.

Thanks Ken we loved listening to you,

– Mike Rydell,

Principal Wallkill H.S.

I am a sophomore at the school you spoke at Wednesday. Thank you for giving me my hope back. My family struggles with addiction and most recently my father died from alcohol poisoning. I had lost all hope for my other family members until I heard your speech. I know now that I can overcome my fears and live my dreams. I just want to live a happy life and be successful, but my family life kept beating me down. I am gonna take your advice and love and believe in myself no matter what anyone else thinks. I still don’t understand how a guy like you felt like you weren’t good enough with all your abilities, but my friends and I realized that we feel inferior too and we have no reason to. We decided to make each day count like you said and to never give up. You don’t know me but I’ll never forget you.

Thanks Ken we loved listening to you,

– Student,

Wallkill H.S.

At Owen D. Young Central School, we were grateful for the opportunity to have Ken speak to our 7th-12th grade students. His presentation exceeded our expectations. Our students were captivated from the moment the presentation began, and there was much to be gained from Ken’s story, and the open, honest way in which it was shared. Our students were eager to meet Ken and personally thank him after the presentation. I would highly recommend Ken Bartolo’s program.

You spoke at my school in early March. I just wanted to thank for for helping me change the way I look at life. I have been off all drugs for 7 weeks now. I never thought there was much hope for my future but now I do. Thank you for giving me myself back. I will never forget you and appreciate your keeping in touch with me. I am enough just the way I am and I took your advice and write down 5 reasons everyday. I want to be a motivational speaker someday. We have speakers come in and it seems like they are making up scenario’s to scare us. I thought you would be just another know it all to tell us don’t do drugs but you really changed my life.

Thank You,

– Fayetteville -Manlius High School Student

On Tuesday, April 4th 2017 Ken Bartolo presented his “There and Back” presentation to our middle school. The student presentation was followed up with a parent workshop in the evening. The feedback from students has been tremendous. Teachers shared that when they returned to their classes after the assembly students needed time to process this powerful presentation. Parents shared with us that when their children came home they could not sharing the message they heard from Ken. Parents were very appreciative of the openness and honesty in which Ken shared his story.

In all of my years, this was one of the most powerful and effective presentations we have brought in for our students.

Ken spoke to our high school students on March 3rd, 2017. He gave an incredibly powerful and brave account of his history of substance abuse. Many parents reported their children coming home and discussing the impact his story had on how they look at drug use. The families really appreciated the fact that it opened dialogue between them and their children about staying away from substances and the inevitable negative effect it can have on their lives. I highly recommend having Ken if you want to curb substance abuse among your students. The impact of his presentation was felt immediately as staff reported students still talking about Ken weeks after the presentation.

– Ray Kilmer

Principal – Fayetteville-Manlius High School

The ability to keep the attention of over 200 students in grades 7-12 with nothing but a microphone and his story for close to two hours speaks volumes as to the powerful message Ken shared.

– Alison Burch

The Wallkill Central School District was pleased to welcome Ken Bartolo as a keynote speaker for our annual Superintendent’s Conference Day focusing on student health and safety. Mr. Bartolo’s heartfelt account of his struggle with substance abuse was both difficult and inspiring to hear. His story emphasized how decisions regarding drugs and alcohol can have lifetime consequences. Many faculty and staff members reached out to us following the conference to say how much the program affected them and to share stories of students or family members in similar situations. Mr. Bartolo’s emotional message regarding addiction, personal self-worth, and the value of fostering relationships with students was direct and resonated deeply with the entire audience.  Our educators have benefited greatly from Mr. Bartolo’s presentation, and we are looking forward to bringing him back to the district this year to work with our students.

– Yvonne Herrington

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, Wallkill Central School District

No one has made such an impact on our athletes as Ken, it has been over a month since he spoke here at Eldred and they’re still talking about his story. We decided afterward to have him back to do our entire student body this spring. Our athletes said it’s just as much about how we should live our lives and treat others as it is about Substance Abuse. The most courageous, authentic and effective speaker we’ve had.

– G. Gass A.D.

Eldred HS

Ken came and presented to our students on two different occasions. In the spring of 2016 he spoke with our spring athletes and this year on November 22nd we had him back to speak with our entire student body because of how powerful the first presentation was . A lot of students told me how impressed they were with the presentation. One student told me that our school needed to hear this because of a lot of issues students have with substance abuse that do not get reported. Another student told me in tears that they lost a close family member to substance abuse and this presentation was sad but good for the students to hear. I would highly recommend this presentation for our students to give them a real life example of how substance abuse can ruin lives.

– Russell E. Stevener Jr.

High School Principal, Holland Patent Central School District

We were delighted to have Ken as our featured speaker. It was a pleasure to hear your incredible story. Your brave, candid and heartfelt talk is sure to have touched everyone in our audience and provided valuable insight on the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Again thank you for being part of our wellbeing speaker series.

– Ridgewood NJ Superintendant for Curriculum and Instruction

As a student you are always thinking to yourself “oh great, another boring assembly on why you shouldn’t use drugs”. Right away, Ken caught my attention with how he didn’t leave anything for my imagination. He told us all the “real” deal and afterwards I almost hated him. Why would anyone do that to themselves and continue to do it for so long? Addiction. That’s his answer.

– Pavilion student

To whom it may concern,

I am writing this recommendation on behalf of Ken Bartolo. Ken recently gave an hour presentation to our student body.  Our student body consists of 1600 students in grades 9-12.  We have guest speakers come to our school four times a year to present on different topics that we feel will be beneficial to our students.  In my three years of observing speakers I feel we have never had one that delivered such a powerful message.

Ken’s life experience allowed for our students to relate to something that was concrete in its delivery.  You could hear a pin drop in the gymnasium as Ken went through the stages of how alcohol and drugs affected not only his life but those that cared about him.  At the end of my presentation I immediately contacted me wife, who is a teacher in a neighboring district, to talk to her about having her school personnel bring Ken in.

I am not sure how we will top the message that Ken delivered. I do feel grateful, however, that our students had the opportunity to hear Ken’s story and learn from it.


– Dean of Students

Corning Painted Post High School

Mr. Bartolo,

I was at your speech last week. I sat way in the back and really did not want to be there. I drink and party and we really thought that was cool and that your speech was pointless. About 10 minutes in I realized you felt the same way about yourself as I do. So i started listening and realized I was destroying my future. I am not a star athlete, but I do excellent academically and my parent’s are very proud. After your speech I decided I want to control my life and realized drugs are. I haven’t been to school high on pills since, I was popping them because I thought no one knew. They helped me relax and fit in and I don’t want to tell on my friends but they buy them too. A few of us decided to stop and we got laughed at, but you said it only matters what I think of myself and I believe that. I feel so much better and I can focus and think now. Thank you for giving me my freedom back I am hoping to go off to college drug free. I haven’t told my mom and dad yet but I am going to. I really hope You speak at my University when I am there. Thanks from my friends too, although they didn’t want me to send this. I will live a spectacular life and I am sure your grandfather is proud of you even though he’s not here he knows.

– Rye Student

“I am a student attending Moravia Central School District in New York. Ken Bartolo came to speak with us as a class on his story and battle with drugs. I had been involved with narcotics and other substances for a while and Ken’s story moved me to take my life into my own hands. I contacted him and since then he has been periodically checking in on me to make sure I’m okay. It’s really nice to feel the care of a stranger – it was the help I needed to stay sober and I’d highly suggest contacting him for help.”

– Student/Athlete

From: Robert Randall Head Lacrosse Coach Nazareth College

Date: Wed, Feb 5, 2014

Subject: Ken Bartolo Talk at Nazareth College

Ken Bartolo gave an inspiring talk to our players about his life experiences on Tuesday evening January 28th, 2014 It was very beneficial for our Nazareth College Mens Lacrosse team to hear his story. He spoke genuinely about his addictions and how these addictions have impacted his life.

Ken’s presentation lasted 75 minutes and he had all of our players attention for the whole time. As a former student athlete, I thought Ken did and outstanding job communicating to our college student-athletes the dangers of addiction and use of drugs and alcohol.

This is a presentation that is a great message for adolescent and college aged students to learn from.

Thanks to Ken and his support group for coming to Rochester to share his personal story. It was very moving.

– Rob

Ken thank you for going to speak at Red Creek today. I live in Illinois but my son attends Red Creek because he was expelled from the high school here. He wasn’t going to attend school today, but his uncle who he now has to live with got him to go. He called and said your speech brought him to tears and that he is now going to try to turn his life around. Thank you for reaching him in a way I could not. Thanks most of all for changing his and so many others lives

– Student Mother

Testimonial for Ken Bartolo;

I approached Ken Bartolo because we had several instances during our fall athletic season in which our student-athletes were using substances which broke our Athletic Code of Conduct. I asked Ken to come in and share his experiences because I wanted our student-athletes to hear how substance abuse affected his life. Ken explained how “just trying” any type of drug or substance can lead to severe life consequences. I had several student-athletes, coaches, and parents share with me that Ken delivered a great message. Ken and his staff were professional and I would without hesitation recommend him to other school districts/institutions.

– Michael D. Bromley

(Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Batavia City School District)

To Fellow Coaches and Educators:

I am writing this on behalf of Ken Bartolo, who on the evening of Tuesday, February 4th, came to speak my men’s lacrosse team at St. John Fisher College. He brought to life, very real and difficult situations.

Ken did not sugarcoat anything, he told about his life in athletics and how alcohol, prescription drugs and hard core drugs have affected him forever. He did an incredible job cutting right to the heart of the subject and how these situations nearly ended his life and virtually ruined all of his relationships. He also spoke how difficult his recovery has been.

From a teacher’s and coaches perspective, this was outstanding and as the presentation continued, I could see my players becoming more and more captured into what was being told to them. Maybe because it applied to someone that they knew or even themselves. When Ken concluded, he asked if anyone had any questions, and there were numerous ones, but most telling was one of my players who had a similar family situation. Ken was very compassionate with him, offered advice and told him of some places where he could get help.

As a long time teacher and coach, I would strongly encourage any organization that deals with young people to contact Ken Bartolo and have him address your group. He will do an outstanding job.

– John C. Johnson

(Head Men’s Lacrosse Coach – Saint John Fisher College)

I just wanted to thank you for a very engaging presentation today. We had all of our 10th and 11th graders listening intently and many asked very good questions that indicated they were thoroughly involved in the talk.

The students were quiet and listening and when Ken challenged them to think of the impact of their actions on their future and their families it was a very quiet auditorium. I absolutely believe Ken positively impacted our students today.

– Susan H. Centore

(Work Based Learning Teacher – G.W. Fowler High School/PSLA)

Ithaca City School District

In August 2014, Ken came and spoke at our Fall Sports Night at Ithaca High school. We had an auditorium of over 250 student-athletes, coaches and parents. During his talk you could hear a pin drop, not one-person spoke, looked at their cell phone or left.

The raw delivery of his story was authentic and transforming. As and athletic administrator and former college coach, I have had many speakers come to address student-athletes, and by far Ken’s ability to connect with the whole room was one of the best I have seen. I received more compliments about Ken’s talk then any speaker I have ever had. I highly recommend him. I believe his message is one that every parent and student athlete should hear. We plan to have him back again soon! Thank you!

– Danielle LaRoche King

(Wellness and Athletic Officer – Ithaca City School District)

Ken came out and presented his story to our students and staff and the feedback I’ve gotten is tremendous. We live in a reality driven society and Ken’s story is one that can be related to because it’s REAL! We have had people come and throw facts and statistics at our students but none have come close to the impact Ken’s story had. Both staff and student’s alike really gained from this presentation and I would recommend him to any school or organization looking to help tackle issues of substance abuse.

– Jamie Grimshaw

(9-12 Phys. Ed Teacher/ Director of Athletics – Men’s Varsity Basketball Coach- Red Creek High School

The world our students are exposed to today continues to bring with it many challenges. One of the biggest challenges they face daily is peer pressure in regards to making good choices. Most students have no idea how much harm they can cause their friends by introducing them to drugs and alcohol. Ken’s presentation really packs a punch in regards to seeing the short and long term effects of alcohol and drug. The impact with our students was felt immediately. It was like a burden was lifted off of their shoulders understanding, that it is ok to just say no! The presentation touches all students and staff, and takes them on a roller coaster ride of emotions, through the highs and lows of Ken’s life and lost dreams. Kudos to Ken and his staff for touching the lives of 400 students, this was one of the most heart felt presentation we have ever had!

– Greg Jenne

(High School Principal – Moravia Central School

In all of my years of attending high school assemblies Ken’s story was one of the few that captivated the audience for the entire presentation. Through school and community events we attempt to educate and provide our students with information about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Ken’s personal experience not only provides a powerful firsthand account of these dangers but provides a deeper message of individual self worth and personal responsibility. We know his story had a meaningful impact on our students and staff members. We appreciate Ken taking the time to help our students. If your school is looking to have a serious discussion about the dangers of drugs and alcohol for your student population, Ken is the person to deliver this message.

– James Nee

Pre-K-12 Principal – Colton-Pierrepont Central School

There and Back was a truly poignant presentation that seemed to clearly impact every one of the players, coaches, and parents in attendance. I have never seen a group of young men so attentive during a presentation. Ken’s story of struggle with addiction began while walking the very halls my athletes walk every day. Ken’s message is ultimately one of hope as well as the importance of doing for others while continuing to love yourself. The message is honest, authentic, emotional, and impactful. He is not someone who has been required to speak or even asked to by others. Ken has chosen to share his message of pain and suffering as a genuine way of helping others and that is apparent from the moment he recounts his painful journey with everyone in the room.

– Jamie Archer

Varsity Lacrosse Coach – Jamesville-DeWitt High School

Mr. Ken Bartolo came and spoke at Cato-Meridian CSD in January 2015. The presentation was very enlightening to the student body. Ken was upfront and honest about his experiences. The students enjoyed the presentation and found it to be authentic. I received many compliments from students and staff about this presentation. This is a presentation that serves as a powerful message for your student body and staff about the dangers of addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs. The message Ken sends to others is one that everyone should experience.

– Jim Miller

Director of Athletics, Health, and Physical Education – Cato-Meridian CSD

Dear Ken:

Thank you for coming to speak at Herkimer College. Having you speak to both our area high school students, and then our Collegiate Athletes was exactly what they needed to hear.

Basically, getting caught up with Drugs & Alcohol is just not worth the risk, and once you’re addicted, all bets are off! Having these young people hear it from someone like you, who has experienced it all and lived to tell about it, was a compelling and scary first person account. Your transformation as a person is an inspiration to all who hear your story, and so many more people need to hear it…


– Dr. Matthew R. Hawes

Herkimer College Dean of Students

All of the feedback we received from the students and teachers was positive. Addiction and poor choices are always a difficult conversation to have with students, but your presentation opened that door for our students.

One student commented to me, “I know someone like him and that’s scary.” My hope is that this student and others learn to “tell on” their friends before it’s too late.

Thanks again for coming Ken!


– Debra Tarantino

Principal – Clarkstown High School South

Mr. Bartolo,

I don’t know if you remember me I was the guy with the red sweatshirt on . I just wanted to say how much you inspired me today. I don’t do drugs but how you said you felt you weren’t good enough and so on. I have felt like that for the last few months, I felt I was insignificant and would never do anything that anyone would even remember,or ever remember me. But after hearing your story I realized I don’t have to worry anymore about my future being worthless, I do matter and I am enough.And Im going to try to help others and i feel better already.I thought i was alone but after hearing a guy like you thought the same things and felt the same way, I decided to push on I am good enough and i am going to make a difference. Thank you for convincing me not to give up on myself. I think your amazing for sharing your story and i am going to make my life “spectacular” hope you come back next year.

– CSHS Student

Clarkstown High School South

Thanks for everything i just had a soccer game and i’m starting to smile a lot more, and feel better about myself. I talked to my parents and they understand me now. They are hugging me a lot more and telling me they love me more.I don’t know how my life would have ended up if you never walked into my school. Now when you check up on me it makes my day.

– Student athlete

400 students sat riveted to their seats and quietly listening as Ken shared his story. We were overwhelmed by the response he received from our students. Once Ken imparted his last words, the students left their seats to approach Ken and share their stories, as well as embrace and thank him. We will be sharing our experience with neighboring districts so they may too choose to contact Ken to speak with their students – the children of our communities. – Robin Hecht, Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Thank you,

– Robin Hecht

Director of Curriculum and Instruction – Marlboro Central School District

Ken Bartolo tells a captivating story. He held the attention of the student body for the entire length of the presentation. It was a nightmarish tale of a man’s descent into and back of addiction and loss. It was clear that the students were paying more attention to the story than other public speakers we have had in the past.

– Mark Schermerhorn

Jordan Elbridge Central

Mr. Bartolo thank you for coming to my school and sharing your life. I was using drugs and not telling anyone, after i heard your story, I finally told my mom and dad and i gave them the pills and weed.We cried but your story gave us hope (they were there too) I am going to fall back in love with myself and chase my dreams. It’s hard to believe a guy as successful as you didn’t believe in himself, but when you said that, I decided to believe in myself again too. I will never forget you thanks for giving me back my hope. I will make my life spectacular.

– Voorhesville Student-Athlete

I had watched Ken Bortolo present his story There and Back on in a video and decided we wanted him to come to our school and present to our athletes. The video of his presentation does not do justice to the experience of having him talk in person. He is intense and passionate about his story and about getting his message across and connecting with his audience. He has a great presence and a story that reaches out and grabs the attention of his listeners. You could hear a pin drop during his talk, our athletes were mesmerized.

The following day, it was all Rave reviews. Kids told me that they went home and talked to their parents for an hour straight, they were energized by Ken Bortolo’s story. Coaches and students alike told me we have to do it again for the entire student body, it was that powerful. Finally, I am the advisor to the club, the Warrior Project, that sponsored the event. One of the requirements for membership is to be drug and alcohol free. I have had more students approach me than ever before asking to join our organization.

Ken Bortolo’s story is moving and powerful. It was energizing for students with a great message that they got and wanted to pass on. Ken Bortolo’s story needs to be heard by your athletes as well as your general student population.

– John Furey

Head football and Baseball Coach Niskayuna High School – Supervisor “The Warrior Project”

Mr. Bartolo I was at the assembly today in West Babylon and it was really life changing for me. i never believed I could achieve my dream until today. I want to grow up to be a UPC fighter and be the best. I never believed i could achieve that until today. Your story is very inspiring. I suffered from bullying and depression when I was younger. I will grow up to be the best in the world at what i do. Thank you for changing my life.

P.S. Look for my name in the coming years and once i make it in the UFC you can say you know me.

I am the luckiest guy alive

– West Babylon Long Island, Student

On June 23rd, 2015 we had the pleasure of having Ken Bartolo come speak to our 8th grade students at the West Babylon Junior High School on Long Island, NY. His presentation was extremely impactful on all our students and staff. The day was 90 plus degrees, taking place in a gym with no air-conditioning and hard bleacher seats. The setting was hardly conducive to keeping the attention of 13 and 14 year adolescence for over an hour. But Ken’s message was so interesting, heartfelt, and educational that the students were mesmerized and never stopped listening to his powerful message.

Students had many questions during the Q &A session after his presentation. Ken also took the time to speak to individual students who had questions or concerns even after the assembly had been concluded and students dismissed. He encouraged them to seek counseling and referred them several resources to go for additional information.

I have been booking guest speakers for over 15 years and Ken is definitely one of the best speakers we have had. I would not hesitate to recommend him to any junior high, middle school, high school or college level substance abuse prevention program.

– Greg Hartranft

West Babylon Junior High School – West Babylon, New York

Hi Ken,

Thank you again for sharing your gripping story with our students. They were fully engaged. I know your story left an impact on many of our students, as they continue to be heard talking about it amongst their peers. I particularly liked how you started by sharing about your dream and reminding them to hold onto their own, how it all started with one hit or one drink, or one poor choice. For many of our students they think it couldn’t possibly happen to them but you made it real as you played on sports teams that they compete against. You touched many students by admitting to “never feeling good enough,” as this is nearly a universal feeling for ninth graders navigating friendships, relationships, and challenging academics.

You connected with their hearts by sharing your relationship with your Grandfather. So many of our students are faced with a loved one’s alcoholism or drug addiciton. You talked about some of the things you have done and continue to do each day to stay sober and “pay it forward.” I know many are wondering what they can do to help a family member. Thank you for reminding them to ask for help, and letting them know who they can turn to.

– Beth Hughes

Liverpool High School – Annex School Social Worker

Ken, I must admit it has been awhile since you spoke at my school. I really hated myself and I thought I was worthless I then thought of your saying that I had to love myself as I am. Finally now with 4 months clean I like myself and feel like I do matter. I’ve refocused on my dreams and am playing football again and my grades are back up. I know you don’t remember me but I’ll never forget you. I am being recruited again and plan on playing in college. I was hoping you could come to one of my games I attached a schedule. Thanks for showing me I deserve all the good things I didn’t think I did. See ya at a game, I hope?

– West Babylon Student Athlete

Ken came and spoke to our students in October before our Homecoming Weekend. His story was captivating and informative, he was able to detail the effects of substance abuse on not just the individual, but the effects it has on families, friends and the entire school community. His message is one that should be shared with not just athletes, but all high school students. Thank you for sharing your story.

– Greg Cuthbertson

Middle/High School Principal – Poland Central School District

We recently had the pleasure of hosting Ken Bartolo and his presentation for our student body. His personal account of living “There and Back” with addiction was incredibly moving. He displayed a unique ability to connect with his audience, while taking you along on his journey and struggles throughout his adolescence and young adulthood. Our students were truly engaged throughout his delivery. Beyond sharing his own experience, Ken encouraged our students to support one another, reach out for help and assistance as needed, and acknowledged the challenging role of family and friends supporting an addict.

Thank you to Ken and his staff for sharing such a powerful and inspiring experience with our campus community.

– Amanda Tommell-Sandy

Assistant Director for Health Promotion and Student Wellness – Union College


I just wanted to say thank you again and let you know some of the aftermath comments. Students said this was the best school presentation they have ever seen, that you have been the individual that has impacted them the most in their four years of high school, etc. Students were posting on facebook about your amazing presentation, and it has started conversations with peers, and parents. One girl said her families discussion around the dinner table was about the presentation and about addiction.

I cannot thank you enough!! Hands down the best money I have spent from this grant.


– Natasha Hamel, M.Ed

SAP Counselor

3 presentations 3 miracles!!!!

Mr Bartolo, I was the girl who came up and thanked you for saving my life. I thought your presentation was going to be boring so I brought my computer. But as I listened to your story I felt something. I now know what that was, hope. I was going to go home and commit suicide tonight, but you gave me hope that my life will get better. I am going to make the most of my life and inspire others with my music. Thank you for convincing me not to give up on myself, i will never forget you.

– Monticello HS Student

Out of all the guest speakers I have seen and have listened to there stories I have to say the one we had today was the best one yet. It takes a lot for someone to come and talk to teenagers about there life and what has happen to them with drug and alcohol addictions it can’t be easy to tell us the things they have gone through and people really need to take it seriously just because u think it makes you cool to do drugs and drink think about what It can do to your life your dreams it can ruin everything you have wanted in life it all started for our guest speaker by smoking weed with the cool kids because he wanted to be just as cool as them he wasn’t aloud to play football it was taken away from him with a blink of a eye its a serious thing and people need to see how serious it is because it’s not worth ruining your life your dreams everything you’ve ever wanted just to be cool like your friends.

– Student @ Newport NH High School

Ken. I am the reporter that covered your presentation I wanted you to know my father is an alcoholic and I havent spoken to him in 25 years.After your speech I called him it was very emotional but we are going to get together soon. Thanks for bringing him back into my life.

– Reporter for Sullivan Co Democrat

Mr. Bartolo- I didnt want to live when I woke up this morning and when you talked about how you felt like you werent enough I felt the same way. I was considering ending my life after school. But your story inspired me to keep going. Thanks for staying and talking to me.I am going to make my life spectacular and go after my dreams.

– Monticello HS Student

Today at our school we had a guest speaker come and talk to us, to share his life story, and most importantly teach us teenagers that drugs and alcohol can completely ruin your life. His story didn’t only make me emotional, but it also made me want to not only change myself, but change others aswell. He also talked about self harm and suicide, every word he said gave me chills.. He is an example of what hell and back really means. Things will, and can get better. It’s what you out into life, is what you’ll get out. I hope everyone took this as a lesson and really learned something, not just a time off from class to hang out with your boyfriend.

– Student @ Newport NH High School

“Addiction is an epidemic in our community. Ken’s story is the same as many of our student’s families, only the details are different. He showed our students that recovery is possible with hard work and commitment. And that hope truly does exist in seemingly hopeless situations”.

– Dana Taylor

Innovation Instigator – Supervisor of Special Programs, Monticello, NY 12701

Ken Bartolo visited our high school and gave two terrific presentations that had both teachers and students captivated. Hi extremely powerful personal story got the students’ attention and kept it while he delivered his important message. Our students are still talking about his visit weeks later. We will definitely have Ken return to our school again soon.

– Dr. Rory Manning

Principal – Harborfields HS-Greenlawn, NY

“Mr. Barolo’s powerful presentation exposed students to the dangers of substance abuse and addiction. His chilling story was carefully designed to inspire students to resist using drugs and make healthy decisions,”

– Principal Joe D’Apice

Richfield Springs Jr./Sr. High School

Hello, I guess you spoke at the school in Newport, NH yesterday. I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to come there. My son came home talking all about you and wouldn’t stop. You probably here that a lot though. I really wish I could have been there to hear you speak because you inspired my son so much. . He has never come home talking about school until you came and spoke there and he was just going on and on. I really wish i heard your story. Do you have any idea of when your documentary is going to be or any info on it because I would really be interested in watching it. I don’t share your experiences as far as your story goes, but it seems so interesting and I would really love for my son to watch that also. Thanks

– Bonnie

We recently invited Ken to speak at our Chemical Health Night, which is our “kick off” event to the sports season. It is attended by our student athletes, their parents and their coaches. I was excited to bring Ken in because he is someone who our athletes can relate to. Ken has been there, putting in the time and effort to succeed in athletics at a very high level. Any athlete who plays the game wishes they can find that kind of success. But Ken was open and honest, describing how all of his hard work was wasted by making poor decisions. Our athletes learned from Ken that one bad decision can have life changing consequences.

Many of our athletes’ parents have since reached out, stating that Ken’s presentation has sparked great conversation between them and their son/daughter. Anyone looking to get a powerful message across to their athletes and parents, I would highly recommend bringing Ken to your school. I know that it was a presentation that our athletes won’t soon forget.

– Dave Austin

Maple Hill Athletic Director/PE Teacher

Ken Bartolo brings the painful, life altering truth about substance abuse to students and parents in a factual manner. His story is compelling and a grave warning about how poor choices can derail future successes.

– Patricia B. Taylor

Principal, Rye High School – 1 Parsons Street, Rye, NY 10580

Dear Ken,

Thank you so much for your engaging presentation to the middle school scholars at Frazer School. Staff were very nervous about our students’ ability to sit quietly during a presentation without having had a chance to review assembly expectations. You could have heard a pin drop during the entirety of your presentation. Your speech kept our students attention during the whole presentation. It was extremely helpful for our student athletes who must make these day to day decisions every moment. I thought you did an amazing job talking about the perils of one bad choice for our whole student body. I felt that our students were able to relate to your experiences, and even better our students were able to see that you were able to recover after a long standing addiction to pain killers.

The focus on student adult relationship also struck a chord with me as a staff member. As many of our students have experienced one or more traumatic events or come from homes where they face chronic stressors, the importance of the relationships with staff or a trusted adult is crucial. Your presentation was honest, powerful and empowering.

Thank you so much for your willingness to talk at Frazer School.


– Joy Yoffa

LCSW – School Social Worker