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Conference stresses importance of decision-making to students

First-hand knowledge: Mike Lutzenkirchen, father of former Auburn football player Philip Lutzenkirchen, who was killed in an alcohol-related wreck, talks to about 1,200 Chilton County students at the Choices Matter Life Awareness Conference on Wednesday. (Photo by Stephen Dawkins)

First-hand knowledge: Mike Lutzenkirchen, father of former Auburn football player Philip Lutzenkirchen, who was killed in an alcohol-related wreck, talks to about 1,200 Chilton County students at the Choices Matter Life Awareness Conference on Wednesday. (Photo by Stephen Dawkins)

Mike Lutzenkirchen knows how serious the consequences of poor decisions can be.

Lutzenkirchen’s son, Phillip, a 23-year-old former Auburn University football star, was killed in a wreck after a night of drinking.

Mike Lutzenkirchen was among a group of speakers who talked to all Chilton County juniors and seniors on Wednesday at a “Choices Matter” Life Awareness Conference held at Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center.

Clanton Police Department School Resource Officer David Hicks and District Attorney Randall Houston organized the event.

Hicks said he heard Lutzenkirchen at a police conference in the summer of 2015.

“After hearing his presentation, on the way back, I was talking to my wife and said, ‘This is the message the teenagers in our county need to hear,’” Hicks said.

Hicks worked with Lutzenkirchen and school officials to find a date to bring the speaker to the county.

Lutzenkirchen founded the “Lutzie 43 Foundation,” an organization with a mission of using Philip Lutzenkirchen’s memory and example to help “serve and lead with humility, cherish relationships, remain genuine and authentic, live a life full of spirit, and learn and adjust.”

At the event Wednesday, Mike Lutzenkirchen talked about, among other topics, being “available” for those you come in contact with, use of social media, and the importance of preparation.

Lutzenkirchen said studies show 24 percent of high school students drink alcohol, and talked about his son’s decisions that ultimately led to his death as a passenger in the vehicle during a wreck.

“There was nobody at that farm that forced Philip to drink to the level that he did,” Lutzenkirchen said. “When the time came to say ‘enough,’ he had another.

“A good friend wants to have another [drink] to entertain friends. A great friend waits and looks out for others. Are you a good friend or a great friend?”

Other speakers included Mandy Johnson and C.J. Robinson with the district attorney’s office, on the dangers of social media and texting; and author and attorney Liz Huntley, on not accepting excuses.

District Court Judge Rhonda Hardesty gave closing remarks.

“It’s all about making choices,” Hicks said. “Every choice you make is going to have a consequence or a benefit.”

Hicks said the conference targeted juniors and seniors because they are about to become legal adults—and potential punishment for crimes becomes harsher than it is for juveniles.

Hicks said he began the conference by telling about 1,200 students in attendance that the speakers were “going to tell you like it is.”

“I told them that today begins the rest of your life,” he said. “I’m tired of knocking on the door in the middle of the night and telling them their loved ones are dead, I’m tired of seeing people ruin their lives with a stupid decision, and I’m tired of seeing people quit school.”

Hicks thanked Superintendent of Education Tommy Glasscock and the Chilton County Board of Education for their help in organizing the event, and said he would like to see the conference become an annual event.