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Michelle Leopold: Life and Activism

In July of 2019, Michelle Leopold and her family attended the funeral of a student who passed away following an accidental fentanyl overdose. Four months later, in November of 2019, her son, Trevor Leopold, died in his dorm room at Sonoma State University from similar causes.

“Before [Trevor] was going to bed, he took one M30 [pill]. It was supposed to be an oxycodone. He had a friend sleeping over at his dorm that night, and [the friend] woke up next to a dead body. [It was] from [that] one pill,” Michelle said. 

M30 is a counterfeit pill that is nearly identical to prescription medication. This makes teens particularly susceptible to an accidental overdose. Fentanyl wasn’t the first drug Trevor tried. Instead, he was led down the road of addiction starting from what is perceived to be a harmless drug: Cannabis. Michelle recognized Trevor was addicted to cannabis and believed it to be the root of his problems with substances. 

“Immediately, my husband and I said, ‘We can’t pretend like he got a heart attack. We can’t pretend like he suddenly got cancer and died.’ We had to be honest. He was struggling with addiction before he died,” Michelle said.

Not wanting other parents to experience the same outcome, Michelle turned to activism.

“My husband and I decided to be honest and tell people [about Trevor’s struggle with addiction]. I started raising awareness. In the beginning, people didn’t even know the word fentanyl,” Michelle said.

After many years of advocacy, Michelle shifted her focus to young adults as she felt they were the most important to educate due to their developing brains. 

Promoting fentanyl awareness, Michelle Leopold stands in front of a sign representing her mission to educate kids on the dangers of drugs.

“I have spoken out whenever I can to young adults,” Michelle said. “I think it’s important that [people 35 years or younger] know the dangers [of drugs]. They’re old enough, and it’s their decision.”

Michelle has spoken around Marin to organizations like the National League of Young Men, Archie Williams High School, Tamalpais High School and the San Francisco School for the Arts. Michelle also volunteers with a multitude of organizations, including Johnny’s Ambassadors, an educational campaign started by Johnny Stack’s family, a student who also died from an accidental overdose in Colorado just three days after Trevor’s passing. 

Michelle has proven to be very effective at influencing students with her speeches. Sophomore Cooper Canon was one of the students moved by Trevor’s story.

“It was really inspiring to see her talk,” Canon said. “She obviously knew what she was talking about and I could feel how much she cared about [educating students].”

Michelle’s work has helped keep harmful drugs out of Marin and away from teenage hands.

“One of the groups I am part of, Marin Residents for Public Health, has been a catalyst in why there are no [recreational] cannabis dispensaries in Marin County,” Michelle said.

When asked what she wanted to achieve with her activism, Michelle said that she did not want to see more minors die from overdoses, but while that seems impossible now, she believes in the importance of educating kids on the dangers of drugs to prevent overdoses.

“[If] someone walks by a river and you see many people drowning, and you pull one out of the river, you save their life, that’s great. That’s sort of like giving them Narcan. But it would be a lot better to go upstream, and find out why everyone’s drowning and teach them to swim. And for me, that’s why I think education is more important. Let’s teach people about all these new dangers in there,” Michelle said.

For additional information on some of the organizations Michelle Leopold has worked with, check out these websites:

Johnny’s Ambassadors

Marin Residents for Public Health

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About the Contributors
Evan Wang, Cub Reporter
Evan Wang is a sophomore at Redwood High School and is a Cub Reporter for The Redwood Bark. He enjoys spending time with family and friends and he loves traveling.
Liam Healy, Cub reporter
Liam Healy is a cub reporter for the Redwood Bark. He enjoys hanging out with friends and family and working out.