When comedian and actor Mike Epps was growing up in Indianapolis, he sometimes didn’t make good decisions.

The Arsenal Technical High School graduate, who received his honorary diploma in 2016 at the age of 45, spoke candidly about the consequences of making the wrong choices during the panel discussion “Making the Right Play in Life” at Shortridge High School on Thursday, Sept. 26.

Epps was joined on stage by IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson, Shortridge senior Imani Graham, Indiana Pacer Myles Turner, and promoter/activist Amp Harris.

Epps noted that it took time for him to understand how his self-esteem, diet, daily habits and friends affected his life. As a result, when he encountered a few obstacles, he dropped out of high school and ran into trouble with the law.

The panelists all expressed how a split-second decision could alter the course of someone’s life. Students have to find healthy alternatives and outlets such as finding a passion in life, hanging with positive friends and keeping education a priority. Epps told students that they have opportunities for which others could only dream.

“I’ve traveled all over the country, I’ve been to other countries, and I see kids that would do anything in the world to be in your position,” he said. “The access that you have … y’all could take over the world.”

But it’s the negative aspects of access such as social media influencers or celebrities who sometimes lead teens into believing that they must behave a certain way to be “liked.”

The 23-year-old Turner acknowledged that he is just a few years out of high school, but much has changed in those five years.

With the pressures of fitting in and of achieving in class, many students face stress and anxiety. According to neaToday.org, a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression are significant problems among their peers.

Responding to an audience question about how to rise from anxiety/depression, Graham, a senior at Shortridge, offered this advice: “You will not be at your lowest for the rest of your life. But you can’t dwell in the storm. You continue to move forward.”

In dealing with the trials and tribulations of school, and life in general, the panel advised students not to give up. In making decisions each day, Superintendent Johnson said: “You have to decide what’s right for you, what you believe in, and make sure your actions match your beliefs.”