MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Most teenagers are used to getting lectured, but the raw lecture tens of thousands of Minnesota teens will get this year could be a life changer.

In mid-November, New Prague Alternative Learning Center students listened intently to an hour-long speech from staffers at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

Teen Challenge staffers call their program, “Know the Truth”, and give talks to 50,000 local teenagers each year.

“I think everyone here has something they struggle with or battle in their life,” one student said.

Struggle is what Tuesday’s lesson was all about.

Adam Pederson, a former addict, led the discussion.

“This is a chance to ask questions maybe your textbooks can’t answer. We’ve been there, drank it, snorted it, sold it, gone to jail because of it, lost our families because of it, had friends, family overdose die because of it,” Pederson said.

They go to schools all over the area reaching tens of thousands a year.

On this day the lesson was a real life one. Another speaker was 18-year-old Anthony.

“It wasn’t till the age of 10 that I actually got offered weed for the first time,” he said.

Six years later, the Chaska teen, who says he grew up with wonderful parents, was doing meth.

“I started doing meth every day, there’s a point where I was up five days straight on meth,” Anthony said.

It’s an open conversation in hopes kids can “Know the Truth.” Anthony and the two other speakers are all proud graduates of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenges rehab programs.

“It was like a switch came on in my brain when I drank and all the sudden I was confident and I could laugh and tell stories and I felt like people liked me,” talker Portia said.

It took Portia 10 stints in rehab, but she finally broke the hold of heroin.

After losing the restaurant he owned at 23, Pederson recalls he “woke up with blood on my pants, blood on my shirt, my hand bleeding cause I cut myself and there was a cop standing in front of me.”

He came to Teen Challenge and sobered up, so now he speaks out for a living.

“We’re not here to tell anybody what to do, but actually here to tell you what we’ve done,” Pederson said.

It’s a program that proves that even though the truth hurts, it can also heal.

“My life is so much more fun now,” Pederson said.

To find out how to get “Know the Truth” to come talk with a group, you can click here.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

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