Ask Wade Bullard how he felt when he learned that his poster was one of two winning entries in a statewide anti-drug poster contest, and his answer is simple: “super excited.”
Wade’s poster was chosen from among more than 3,400 entries in the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s Fourth Grade Folder Contest. The contest, whose theme was “Fun Things to Do in New Jersey,” was open to fourth-grade students statewide.
Wade, who attends the Lawrence Intermediate School, shared first-place honors with fourth-grade student Channing Jervis, who lives in Seacaucus. The winners were announced May 12 in a virtual awards ceremony.
Wade watched the online Zoom presentation with his parents and his sister, and that’s how he learned he was one of two winners.
The posters drawn by Wade and Channing will be made into folders to be handed out to about 40,000 fourth-grade students in September. Classroom posters featuring their artwork will be distributed in the classrooms, too.
Wade was encouraged to enter the poster contest by his teacher, Kevin Duncan. Wade admits that he loves to draw, and wanted to share his artwork with others – win or lose.
“I thought it would be a great way for other people to see my artwork,” Wade said. “I did not expect to win, because I knew there would be lots of other kids sending in their artwork. But I was really proud of my piece, and I hoped it would win.”
Each of the 28 finalists, including Wade and Channing, sent a short video of themselves and offered a brief explanation of what their poster represented and the message they wanted to get across.
“My message is that New Jersey is full of fun things to do instead of drugs,” Wade said in his video presentation.
“I came up with the idea because there are so many fun things to do in New Jersey that I couldn’t pick just one. To include them all, the style of artwork that I used was inspired by an artist named Vexx,” Wade said.
Vexx, whose real name is Vince Okerman, is a 21-year-old Belgian who is a self-described doodler and illustrator. He has his own YouTube channel.
In the style of Vexx, Wade drew an outline of New Jersey and filled it in with examples of how one could have fun without taking drugs. Wade drew a soccer ball, a football, a bicycle, a basketball hoop and a tennis racquet. The colorful poster included a flower, a rainbow and a patch of green to represent a lawn.
“There are just so many fun things you can do instead of drugs,” Wade said.
That is exactly the point that the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey wants to get across, said Angelo Valente, the nonprofit group’s executive director.
“These students should not only be commended for their creative ability, but also for sharing important drug-free messages with their peers. Their artwork showcases the importance of living a drug-free life and what it means to them,” Valente said in a statement provided by the partnership.
It is never too early to begin talking to children about substance abuse and prevention efforts, Valente said in the statement. The fourth-grade poster contest is one example of how to educate them and encourage them to make smart decisions throughout their lives.