WEST ORANGE, NJ – Just prior to the end of the school year, juniors and seniors at West Orange High School (WOHS) attended a special program during their health and physical education classes called "Think First," a national outreach program sponsored by Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation that seeks to educate in an effort to stop preventable injuries.

According to Kessler, children, teens and young adults are considered the highest risk group for injuries. "Think First" provides educational programming to raise awareness and encourage individuals of all ages to think before engaging in activities that may lead to brain injury, spinal cord injury, or other serious injury that may lead to permanent disability.

Started in 1992, "Think First" offers a variety of presentations, including topics such as pedestrian, motor vehicle, playground, bicycle, sports and water safety.

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The guest speakers, known as "VIPs" (or Voices for Injury Prevention), for the WOHS session were Karon Johnson, JD Guerrieri and Sherry Guerrieri, JD’s mother. All the speakers shared one thing in common: each one suffered a spinal cord injury after making what he or she considered “a bad decision."

The speakers said that "no one ever wants to suffer a spinal cord injury," because breaking the neck or back can become a permanent and paralyzing injury. The VIPs described the realities of life after injury and the everyday struggles they face and also discussed the difference between paraplegic and quadriplegics.

Students were awed by their stories of survival and educated to think twice before making dangerous decisions that could change their lives forever. The VIPs left students with the strong message that "most injuries are preventable."