Weehawken High School athletic director Richard Terpak, who also serves as the advisor for the school’s student council, is always looking for ways for his students to become more involved with the community.
“I’d like to see community awareness and involvement become a part of the curriculum,” Terpak said. “This way, we can show to the students how important it is to get involved in certain causes.”
Terpak says that he gets a lot of requests from area charitable organizations that are looking for help to run certain fund-raising events.
Probably the most intriguing recent one came from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New York/New Jersey, which was scheduled to hold its annual Bike-A-Thon last Sunday. The route of the MS Bike-A-Thon began in lower Manhattan, but then came through the Lincoln Tunnel and into Weehawken’s Lincoln Harbor, which served as the first rest stop.
Terpak figured that this was a perfect setting for community involvement for the student council. It was a good cause, with the event being held in Weehawken.
“I showed the flier to the members of the student council and they thought it was a great idea,” Terpak said. With that, 15 members of the student organization volunteered to help at the event, doing a wide range of tasks at the rest stop. Some were involved with distribution of water and other refreshments, while others directed cyclists the route to continue after leaving the Weehawken area.
The students had a great time doing so, even if it meant a lot of work.
“It’s always nice to do community service and help those who are less fortunate,” said senior Michael Maione. “We had to set up tables for water and Power Bars and then help to give them out. With 5,000 participants, that’s a lot of water. And a lot of work. But we enjoyed ourselves.”
Student council president Miguel Hernandez agreed.
“It’s always good to participate in that type of an event, because of the cause,” Hernandez said. “And it’s important for us to participate, because a lot of people think that teenagers are generally shallow and don’t care. But we’re willing to help people in need.”
Both Maione and Hernandez are members of the Weehawken football team, which had a game against St. Mary’s of Rutherford on Saturday. With their busy schedule, it took a lot for the student-athletes to give their time to the event.
“It was pretty tough for us to give up our free time, because at this time of the year, we really don’t have much,” Maione said. “But it felt good to help other people. They seemed to be very grateful. And we were motivated and happy about the cause.”
Maione was also filled with civic pride, because Weehawken was used as a rest stop on the 60-mile route up the Palisades, to Alpine and back down to the World Trade Center.
“It helps to put Weehawken on the map a little,” Maione said. “Because we’re a small town, we need to get as much positive recognition as possible.”
“It makes us feel much more fortunate and better about ourselves,” Hernandez said. “We’re healthy and able to play football. There are a lot of people in need who cannot. And this showed that we do care about other people’s problems and we’re able to give back to the community.”
Terpak was very pleased with the students’ participation in the event.
“For them to get up that early on a Sunday and spent so much time working was a gigantic sacrifice for them,” Terpak said. “It really was what I was looking for. They made a difference. The organizers said that they generally have difficulty finding good volunteers on this side of the Hudson.”
Terpak continued, “All in all, it was a great day and a great beginning to the school year. I’m hoping that we’re able to do a few more.”