South Brunswick senior hopes to ‘Shout Down Drugs’ as a finalist in songwriting competition


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SOUTH BRUNSWICK – Sawini Sunkuru has many passions in life.

First and foremost is a deep love of music; the aspiring singer/songwriter hopes to use her musical talents to reach others.

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Also with a deep love of her classmates, she hopes to use a songwriting contest to reach her friends.

“I feel there are so many people these days … who ruin their lives and don’t realize it,” Sawini said. “If I shared my views about all these things happening in our community, I could make a difference.”

The senior at South Brunswick High School entered the New Jersey Shout Down Drugs contest, offered by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ). Students could submit original music with lyrics about substance use prevention through Feb. 1.

On Feb. 3, Sawini was informed she is moving on in the competition as a wild card. She will perform her original song during the 2020 Prevention Concert at 7:30 p.m. on April 3 at the Two River Theatre in Red Bank.

There is an online voting component open through April 2. The winner of the competition, as decided by judges and announced at the end of the Prevention Concert, will receive a $5,000 music contract. The second- and third-place performers will receive $3,000 and $2,000 music contracts, respectively, with PDFNJ.

Sawini, a poet who is planning to publish a book soon, also plays beginner piano. She used Logic Pro X and solicited the help of a teacher to record her song. Her lyrics focused on statistics of substance abuse, the stressors of addressing the issue with friends, the reasoning behind why people do drugs, and the importance of making proper decisions.

“We have a choice: one positive, one negative. But sometimes when you’re with your friends you forget that,” she said. “Popular kids do it to be looked upon differently. … Some people do it to escape reality but it’s hard for them because they’re trapped.”

However, her presiding theme for her song “A Fighter” is the need to fight.

“We’re all strong together,” she said. “As a fighter we’re going to see challenges in life and are going to have ups and downs and see negative and positive choices in life. … Sometimes they get the best of us but we’re still strong.”

She said drug use can start as early as middle school, and so many youths do not realize how much impact it will have on their futures. However, she said children and teens can’t let a product control their lives, because they have great futures ahead.

“Everyone has different skills and they’re going to find it. For the most part, you have to try everything. Find your inspiration and your calling, it’ll be there,” she said. “A lot of people don’t realize we have a lot to live for but they don’t realize these products are stopping us from being the best we can be.”

A typical teenager, Sawini said she was bullied as a child and has new stressors to deal with, but “I use music as my outlet.”

She said she wrote the lyrics for “A Fighter” in less than two hours, but putting the music together took about two days. She said she enjoyed recording her music professionally and hopes to record more after the contest because she feels more confident. She said this is a dream of hers since she is 14.

Her other outlets are organizations such as Incorruptible Us and Youth to Youth, where she focuses on drug prevention and mental health awareness.

“It’s so inspiring to see that because of lot of people think the people addicted to drugs fall down but they don’t see them pick back up. … There are people who want to recover, and I think that’s amazing,” she said.

For more information, visit

To listen to Sawini’s song, visit

Contact Jennifer Amato at


“A Fighter”

Drugs really kill everybody
Them and their surroundings
Never positively
The gases that they have are very frighting
Can cause a lot of things
Very reminding
Popcorn lungs and cancer
But we don’t really remember
Possibilities like these
Will tell you
The world is changing
Even these drugs
More people think it’s a way to get you drunk
Some people think it’s a way to be cool
But I know there are people that use it to get away
Away from reality
They can never escape
No matter what obstacle there is to face we should always remember
We can’t let a product control our life
That we have so much to live for
We cannot give up this fight
Drugs, in general, make you feel a lot of things
But what I can tell you is a lot of negatives
208 million people newly get connected
No matter what we think everyone is still affected
This may cause health or even death
We never talk about it because some people respect
Support groups are made therapy is one
What don’t we have
To tell you it’s wrong
The youth is getting numb
These companies target children
Now they get addicted
They pay for bills rather than education
More people think it’s a way to get you drunk
Some people think it’s a way to be cool
But I know there are people that use it to get away
Away from reality
They can never escape
I don’t ever wanna see you go down that lane
The lane of pain
There is always light
In a dark tunnel
Once you go down
You can always find it
You just have to have hope
And you will remember

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