One Life One Chance (OLOC) was founded in 2009 by Toby Morse, lead singer of the New York Hardcore Punk band, H20. Inspired by the first two schools he spoke at, Toby, being a father himself, wanted to bring this very important message to kids at schools nationwide (similar to the way that he has been singing to his fans for over 18 years).
Toby has taken what he learned from growing up with a single mom and two brothers after his dad passed away when he was 3, to the streets of New York City, to stages worldwide with his band H2O and is now bringing his message directly to children at their schools. His work includes spreading a positive message of individuality, respect, and integrity. Most importantly, he highlights his story of living drug free his whole life; proving that you can have fun, live your dream, be respected and successful without having to give into to peer pressure.
Since OLOC’s inception, Toby has presented to 22 schools in 2 years, first hand changing hundreds of lives along the way. In 2012 OLOC received its official non profit 501(c)3 status.
Toby’s first hand account of the start of OLOC.
After I told my good friend, Chris Roque, that a school in Queens, NY had me invited to come speak, he set up the opportunity for me to speak to 900 kids at his son and daughter’s school in Kingston, NY on February 19, 2009. I had three H2O shows booked for the 19th, 20th and 21st of February that cold weekend in 2009.
For a few months prior, I was writing up alot of cue cards and mentally preparing myself for everything. I had never spoken to a group of people before. Ok, well, I have been on stage with my band H2O for the past 17 years, but that’s different. At shows, those are people who have heard of the band and know our music and our message, not kids in middle and high schools. Everyone was telling me that it was going to be just like being on stage with my band, but I was still prepared that anything could happen!!!
A couple of days before the event, I got really nervous and I remember calling Chris a bunch of times and asking him alot of questions like “Are you sure they know that I’m coming?” “Are you sure that they want to here me speak about my life, really?” That morning, Vaughn Lewis, my good friend and former manager, and world renowned Chef Tal Ronnen, another good friend, drove to the school with me from NYC and then we immediately headed to Philly for a show that night and back to NYC for another show the next day. All the way there, I was reading my cue cards and stressing out myself and everyone around me.
When I got to the school, I was welcomed by the whole staff and then my nerves calmed down. Finally, when I was on stage behind the curtain and heard the principal introduce me, I felt like I was going to faint. I have been making music for years and have played in front of crowds of 10 to 10,000 and still get nervous to this day, but this was a different kind of butterflies. I walked out with my cue cards in my back pocket and was handed the mic by the the principal (one of the sweetest ladies that I have met).
My life was on screen behind me in my powerpoint presentation and the kids cheered and then quieted down for me to start my story. I NEVER took out my cards once and my nerves were gone and, once I was done, the response was overwhelming and the participation was incredible. It was so powerful walking out of that school that day with my friends and everyone smiling and seeing some parents crying after I spoke and hearing students, teachers and parents stories and reactions.
I never had a plan B, because music was my life and still is. But becoming a parent myself and seeing what kids are exposed to at an early age and what kind of role models children have these days on tv and radio, I feel like its my duty as a parent to be a role model for my son. If I can inspire a kid at a school that way that I have done with my band H2O on stage, then sign me up! Walking out of that first school, I said to my friends, “I want to do this for the next chapter of my life.”
I’m going to let Ms. Hannen, the teacher from the next school that I spoke at, which was supposed to be my first one, tell you how I got invited there:
Back in December of 2009, I used H2O’s most personal song called “Sunday” in my English class to introduce an memoir unit to the 8th grade. After hearing the song and using its lyrics for an activity, students responded to the memoir by writing letters to the author for homework. The responses were overwhelming, and turned out to be the most personal writing I have seen from my students all semester. These young ladies and gentlemen expressed themselves so eloquently, relating to Toby’s experiences of losing his father and gaining his wife and son. Students shared their own stories of sympathy and encouragement, offering him condolences and congratulations. I was proud of their bravery in opening up to a stranger, and with their permission, I sent the letters out to H2O.After reading the letters, Toby’s reaction was similar to mine, and I was content knowing I had truly brought a memoir lesson to life.
At some point after he realized the power of his song among students and a single teacher, Toby decided he wanted to speak at schools. He wanted to empower youth by showing them how he himself embraces positivity daily, and how his message can help people improve their lives and reach their dreams. I am blessed to work in a school full of supportive colleagues who helped make Toby’s visit a reality. I am especially grateful to my principal, Ms. Patricia Tubridy, for her approval and total encouragement.
Toby redefined the face of a professional during his visit. He was over-prepared as every teacher should be, which ensured that everything smoothly and on time. His power point presentation was wonderful, and judging from the complete silence and all eyes that were glued to the screen, every single student was engaged, intrigued, or both. I was especially impressed with Toby for having showed up with a Plan B, in the form of a buddy holding scripted index cards just in case of technical difficulties. Students asked him a variety of questions, read excerpts from their letters, and responded very well to Toby’s message.