Hunterdon Youth Coalition Celebrates a Year of Success and Leadership

The Safe Communities Youth Coalition of Hunterdon (HCYC) celebrated a successful year of accomplishments and awarded outstanding members in June at Al Fresco's in Flemington.

"The HCYC are leaders and role models, dedicated to the betterment of the community," said Amy Menes, HCYC Youth Leader. Their mission is to reduce underage drinking and substance use in Hunterdon County by participating in prevention initiatives, volunteer activities, and promoting a substance-free lifestyle. HCYC teens work alongside the adults of the Safe Communities Coalition, whose members include parents, school officials, faith leaders, young adults, legislators, law enforcement, and other community leaders, as they gain networking skills and learn strategies to enact positive change to maintain the quality of life Hunterdon County.

Each year, HCYC members choose a topic to address within their community. This past year, HCYC members tackled the stigma of addiction and recovery. The teens were inspired by a young person in recovery who shared her personal experience with addiction and who helped create Hunterdon's first and only Recovery Center. The Hunterdon Recovery Center, located at the Hunterdon County Family Success Center, 87 Park Avenue in Flemington, was created as a safe space where those in recovery from addiction can find encouragement and hope with true friends. The Recovery Center is primarily supported by volunteers and public donations.

Ms. Menes is proud of the dedication of the HCYC youth. "The HCYC wanted to bring awareness to recovery and decided to launch a social media initiative, #BeATrueFriend campaign." Similar to the ALS ice bucket challenge, participants challenge friends to post themselves having fun without substances, whether that be dancing or playing the guitar, with the #BeATrueFriend, or donate to the Hunterdon Recovery Center at their fundraising page: https://www.gofundme.com/HCrecoverycenter. She added, "Since the launch of their campaign, the HCYC has helped raise over $500 for the center and continues to encourage community members to support those in recovery."

Throughout the academic year, the HCYC participated in community events, highlighted by words of inspiration and encouragement from profound local leaders, including Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III; New Jersey Assemblymen Erik Peterson; New Jersey Assemblymen Jack Ciattarelli; Hunterdon County Freeholder Suzanne Lagay; Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson; Somerset County Freeholder Pat Walsh; and Private First Class, National Guard Narcotics Taskforce, Troy Wisniewski.

They volunteered at Hunterdon Central's Teen Safety Nights; Community Conversations on Heroin held at each public high school in Hunterdon; Hunterdon County Community Day; Police Support Recovery Basketball Fundraiser; and Hunterdon Polo Classic Fundraiser, where HCYC members provided information and resources to attendees. The HCYC also partnered with C-Teen of Hunterdon for their Year End Volunteer Day, where teens decorated collection boxes for United Way's "Tools for School."

In addition, "the HCYC continued their work on mentoring younger students by hosting a Middle School night, where they educated middle school students on the consequences of underage drinking, vaping, prescription and illicit drug misuse," said Peggy Dowd, HCYC Coordinator. "The HCYC also talked about the Overdose Prevention Act and the New Jersey 9-1-1 Lifeline Legislation, designed to encourage overdose victims and witnesses to seek medical attention by guaranteeing limited legal protection from arrest and prosecution."

To promote critical dialogue regarding local conditions, HCYC seniors created PhotoVoice projects, and were awarded scholarships at the Year End Celebration. The seniors presented a comprehensive picture of what they found to be strengths and concerns in Hunterdon, which can be used as tools of change at town halls and other community events. Winners included Tyler Gabel, Taylor Brinker and Allie Obszanski, who each were awarded scholarships.

The HCYC also recognized the outstanding efforts of Shannon Mulligan, for raising funds for the Recovery Center by making bows for her softball team, and Grace Gordon, who recommended the Coalition's managing agency, Hunterdon Prevention Resources, to be honored at the Hunterdon Polo Classic in June.

The Safe Communities Youth Coalition is open to all county high school students. Current members are students from Hunterdon Central, North Hunterdon, Del Val, Voorhees and Mount Saint Mary's. New members are always welcome. To join HCYC, please contact Youth Leader, Amy Menes on Remind App, or by email at amenes@hunterdonprevention.com.

To keep up with these inspiring teens and events, make sure to follow Hunterdon County's Youth Coalition on Instagram @HCYC_NJ, and join the Remind App (for safe text and email communications) @joinHCYC. For more information, please visit www.safecoalition.org, or call 908-782-3909.



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