MIDDLESEX COUNTY — Middle school students from across Middlesex County once again participated in a program designed to increase awareness of prescription and over-the-counter abuse. The winners of the third annual “Be Smart About Medicine” Creative Expression Contest will be announced at a special awards dinner scheduled for Jan. 17.
Prescription drug abuse has become a national epidemic, with an estimated 2,500 teens trying a prescription drug without a prescription for the first time every day. These drugs are readily available in most homes. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), between 1991 and 2010, prescriptions for stimulants increased from 5 million to nearly 45 million and for opioid analgesics from about 75.5 million to 209.5 million. The average age of first time users is 13-14 years old.
To help promote awareness about prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse among middle school students and en courage them to “Be Smart” about prescription and over-the-counter drugs, the Coalition for Healthy Communities invited students in grades six through eight to submit an entry in the third annual “Be Smart About Medicine” Creative Expression Contest. The contest is sponsored by the Coalition for Healthy Communities, an initiative of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) of Middlesex County, Inc.
A distinguished panel of judges reviewed the submissions and selected first, second, and third place winners from each grade. The finalists are:
- 6th Grade: Kiana Abreu, Perth Amboy Catholic School; Trisha Ponik, Perth Amboy Catholic School; Alyssa Sierra, Perth Amboy Catholic School
- 7th Grade: Rohaa Khan, Sayreville Middle School; Kenny Ortiz, Perth Amboy Catholic School; Katherine Zevallos, Perth Amboy Catholic School
- 8th Grade: Ankitha Dindigal, Sayreville Middle School; Maleena Hernandez, Sayreville Middle School; Tomasz Kasztelan, Perth Amboy Catholic School
Every participant will receive a certificate, and prizes will be awarded for first, second, and third place winners in each grade. Finalists and their families will attend a recognition dinner at Middlesex County College’s College Center on Thursday, Jan. 17, where winners will be announced and their work will be displayed.
Schools that participated in the contest included:
- Carl Sandburg Middle School, Old Bridge
- Grace M. Breckwedel Middle School, Jamesburg
- Perth Amboy Catholic School, Perth Amboy
- Sayreville Middle School
The judges that reviewed all entries include: Paul Grzella, General Manager, Home News Tribune and Courier News; Peter Mancusi, Area Director, DCF: Division of Child Protection & Permanency; child ren’s author and entertainer, Rachelle Burk; and, Steven G. Liga, Executive Director & CEO at NCADD of Middlesex County, Inc.