MANALAPAN – Students from the Manalapan High School Save-a-Brave and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) groups will be co-sponsoring and presenting the annual Manalapan High School candlelight vigil on April 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium. This annual event brings attention to how a single distraction or bad decision can lead to destructive and life-altering consequences, according to a press release.
Ronnie Clerico-Knittel is the Student Assistance Coordinator (SAC) at the school and is the faculty adviser to Save-a-Brave and SADD. She sees both sides of the substance abuse world – children and families struggling with addictions, and children who are relatively unaffected by substance abuse, but are engaged to want to make a difference, according to the press release.
Manalapan Principal Adam Angelozzi said, “The SADD and Save-A-Brave students are an important part of our school community. From our teen driver safety program to numerous outreach events, these students exemplify what it means to be civic-minded and responsible young adults. I am always impressed by the programs they create and present. Our annual candlelight vigil represents a culmination of their efforts to help their fellow classmates make smart decisions.”
Julie Bilder, a three-year member of SADD, said the focus of the candlelight vigil has evolved into more of a partnership between the school and the community to promote the message of safety and an awareness of impaired driving.
Peter Evangelista, a member of Save-A-Brave, shared his group’s motto: “Prepare and Prevent – Don’t Repair and Repent” as the organization’s guiding principle.
Within the community, the Manalapan-Englishtown Community Alliance to Prevent Alcoholism and Drug Abuse has recently initiated Project Zero.
“This initiative was developed to raise awareness and educate the community about the dangers and consequences of drug abuse and alcoholism,” Manalapan health officer David Richardson said. “Project Zero intends to shift the narrative surrounding substance abuse. It wants the communities of Manalapan and Englishtown to set the tolerance level to zero for the outcomes of overuse of alcohol or the use of illicit drugs. The alliance remains committed to helping persons with addiction, but is hoping this message will resonate in the community in a prevention-oriented strategy.”
The April 7 candlelight vigil at the high school is open to everyone in the community, according to the press release. It will feature presentations by the students and alliance members. Ari Solomon, chairman of the alliance, will share his personal story with the audience. Refreshments will be served after the vigil and all are invited to attend the alliance meeting that will follow in the high school media center.