Story of grief brings anti-drug awareness to students

When the Center Grove area mother speaks to students about drug and alcohol abuse and awareness, she’s very methodical.

Jeanine Motsay asked band and choir members, honor roll students — even any avid video gamers — to stand up if they fit a category, enjoyed a certain hobby or participated in an extracurricular activity.

“If you’re an athlete, stand up,” she said to students at Franklin Community Middle School on Friday.

Before Motsay began telling the students about how synthetic drugs have changed her family forever, she asks students questions to make sure they realize her son, Sam Motsay, was just like them.

Then, she tells the students her son Sam died on Mother’s Day in 2014 after using a synthetic drug called N-Bomb.

“Sam played basketball, tenor saxophone, was an honor roll student at Center Grove High School. Sam could have been any one of you,” Motsay said to the students. Then, she pauses. “Sam was too young to die. All of you are too young to die.”

The auditorium goes silent. Now, Motsay has the undivided attention she needs to spread drug awareness to the minds before her.

“Before I tell them about Sam, I have them all stand up and that’s all fun, ‘Oh yeah, I do this’ or ‘I do that’. And then when they realize their connection with Sam, it’s tearful,” Motsay said. “I think it just drops to silence when they can connect with that.”

This week, Motsay spoke to more than 2,000 students at middle schools across Indiana, sharing her story for National Drug Fact Week. On Friday, she spoke to Franklin Community Middle School about shattering the myths on drug and alcohol abuse.

On Monday, she speaks to Center Grove parents.

Her message doesn’t end with Sam’s story. Motsay makes it a point to talk about all the lives that were impacted from her son’s death almost two years ago.

She mentions how his friends have to live with the burden of a friend dying. How Sam’s brother, Nick, doesn’t have his big brother anymore and how the individuals who sold and obtained the drugs Sam took have had their lives changed through criminal charges and jail time.

“We have more than just Sam. We have a whole group of teens that were impacted by drugs in various ways, and I think that is very important to share,” Motsay said. “This is the perfect age group to speak to, between 12 and 17 years old, it’s really where drug use and addiction starts. This is a time that is really critical for getting that information out there.”

Since her son’s death, Motsay has spoken at middle and high schools and conducted panels around the state about twice a month, trying to prevent the same tragedy from happening to someone else. She speaks to each crowd on behalf of her organization Sam’s Watch, which is focused on outreach, awareness and education efforts.

After she told her story and talked about the weekend Sam died, Motsay plays a slideshow of photos, many of which feature Sam riding his moped, playing basketball and just plain goofing around with friends. Another somber reminder of how much each student in the auditorium was similar to Sam.

Motsay then takes questions from the students and typically at least one student will tell her how sorry they are for her loss. Some even come up to the front and give Motsay a hug. Those reactions are how she knows her message is sinking in with the teenagers, she said.

“I think this subject is very prevalent in their life. I believe that everybody in this room is touched somehow by drugs and I think what I share just helps to drive it home that it’s real,” Motsay said. “That’s what I think that ‘sorry’ was about. I think that my message does come through.”