Local kids praised for anti-drug artwork

Elks Club rewards ‘Americanism’ and sportsmanship

The Weehawken Elks Club, one of the most active and involved organizations in the township, held their annual drug awareness contest awards ceremony Monday night, honoring six youngsters for anti-drug artwork and essays.
Three students won “Americanism” awards for essays they wrote about what the national anthem means to them, and two more were awarded for winning Weehawken’s portion of a nationally-organized “Hoopshoot” basketball competition that placed emphasis on sportsmanship and teamwork.

“There’s lots of temptation in our world, so you can really never emphasize substance abuse awareness enough.” – Mayor Richard Turner
Weehawken’s Elks Club, known within the organization as Local 1456, holds the drug and alcohol abuse awareness contest each year with a different theme. This year the theme was “The Choice 4 Me is Drug Free,” and every student in the township’s 3rd through 8th grades participated.
Third, 4th, and 5th graders were tasked with drawing a poster which best illustrated the negative aspects of drug use, while the older students were asked to put their thoughts into words. The winners were Jazmin Morales (3rd grade), Caitlin Kielty (4th grade), Sebastian Santiago (5th grade), Evi Iordamlis (6th grade), Kiara Ebel (7th grade), and Grace Denfeld (8th grade).
The Americanism winners were Sabrina Perez, Izabella Lizarazo, and Borgil Balginnyam, all 11-year-old 5th graders. The Hoopshoot winners were Niyah Navarro, 6, and 6th grader Alexa Ruiz
Mayor Richard Turner, who attended the ceremony and handed out the awards, spoke highly of Weehawken’s youth.
“There’s lots of temptation in our world, so you can really never emphasize substance abuse awareness enough,” he said. “But there’s a reason Weehawken has such low levels of juvenile delinquency, no fights in our schools, and virtually no vandalism.”
He went on to say that when he talks to officials in other municipalities, he always gets a solid review.
“When our young people go to events in other towns, people are always amazed at what wonderful kids they are,” he said.
Giovanna Nilo, a 7th grade English teacher at Weehawken High School who has produced three essay winners in the three years the contest has been held, said that she hopes the lessons they learn now remain prevalent when they’re older.
“It’s great that at this age they’re so anti-drugs, because it means they stand a much better of chance of maintaining that when they encounter peer pressure and are really put to the test,” she said.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at deand@hudsonreporter.com

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