BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Ridge Against Alcohol & Drugs, a group of township students, was recognized at Tuesday's Bernards Township Committee meeting after winning a statewide youth leadership award late in August based on the group's many projects to encourage students to avoid substance abuse.

Ridge Against Alcohol & Drugs, also known as RAAD, in August won the “Lindsey Rose Meyer Memorial Prevention Award” from the Lindsey Meyer Teen Institute at a meeting of similar teens held this summer. RAAD members discussed all of their activities in the 2014-15 school year, as well as presenting an “Action Plan” for this year to talk to the community about social hosting and underage drinking

RAAD is a youth leadership group based in Bernards Township. The mission of RAAD is to promote healthy lifestyle choices through an alcohol, tobacco, and other drug free lifestyle amongst Bernards Township youth, according to Kaitlin Kordusky, community program coordinator for the Bernards Township Health Department. Kordusky is also the advisor for RAAD.

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RAAD's goal to raise the awareness of "natural hghs" and other alternative activities to substance abuse; to educate fellow youth about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, and to create positive change through leadership and self acceptance.

Many members of RAAD attended a one-week leadership conference held Aug. 24 to 28 in Hardwick, NJ, by the Lindsey Meyer Teen Institute (LMTI). Action Groups made up of school and community groups attended the conference in order to gain leadership training to take back to their communities.

RAAD has been attending LMTI for over a decade as a part of the Ridge Action Group, and this is the first time the group won the award. This year, 21 members, two Youth Advisory Council members (YACs) and one advisor attended, making it the largest group from Bernards Township that has ever attended, according to Kordusky.

LMTI’s mission is to guide young people to realize their leadership potential and become empowered to create change in themselves, their schools, and their communities. The conference was held at YMCA Camp Ralph Mason, where the students heard from many different speakers, engaged in a ropes course to build team trust, met with their own groups from their towns, and were encouraged to meet with students from other groups.

Groups from all over New Jersey

Many different groups attend LMTI from all different regions of New Jersey. “They’re given an incredible opportunity to meet students that they may never have had the chance to meet before,” said Kordusky. “They’re able to get ideas from other communities and make new lifelong friends in a positive environment.”

Every year, all Action Groups get the opportunity to report back to LMTI about their accomplishments they’ve had during the school year. RAAD had taken part in several events during the 2014-2015 school year, such as participating in Back to School Night, the Teen Volunteer Fair, the ‘It’s 21 for a Reason” football game, several informational booths at Ridge High School, Ridge High School Activities Night, helping teach Girls on Track at William Annin Middle School, 5th grade DARE letters to Seniors, Sticker Shock, Party in the Park and the Twilight Challenge 5K.

In addition, RAAD’s “Action Plan” this year was to talk to the community about social hosting and underage drinking. RAAD combated that by writing several press releases and letters to the editor to the media about the issue and how to achieve “natural highs."

In addition, the students launched the “Post It & Read It” campaign at Ridge High School which provided students with statistics on underage drinking and drug use in Bernards Township, Natural Highs, and motivational quotes.

April event for students to speak their minds attended by many

The campaign also posted positive notes around the school. RAAD’s greatest accomplishment this year was the April 9th “Out of the Mouth of…Teens!” which gave Bernards Township students a chance to speak their mind on issues that trouble students these days. The event was attended by over 100 people. This was all in addition to meetings held twice a month. 

On August 28, at the leadership conference,  the 2015 Ridge Action Group was presented with the award. The award, established on April 14, 2005, is presented annually in loving memory and honor of Lindsey Rose Meyer, a passionate and enthusiastic Teen Institute leader, advocate, and friend who passed away in 2001.

The award reads “The recipient of this award is the Most Outstanding Action Group in New Jersey based upon their comprehensive, innovative, and effective prevention programming throughout the school year.” This is the first time that RAAD has won this award.

“Every month I would send in my report filled out in extreme detail about everything RAAD had done. Hearing RAAD’s name called for the award, I was in shock," said Sam Harris, Ridge High School senior, Youth Advisory Council member, and co-president of RAAD.

“The feelings of pride and joy just came pouring over me and I will always hold onto that feeling. I’m so lucky to have played a role in this accomplishment for our town and I only hope more is to come!” 

Members of the RAAD Action Group at the awards presentation this summer include: Top row: JiLon Li, Advisor Kaitlin Kordusky, Nick Telesmanic, Gagandeep Singh, Stanley Chou, Cameron Mourey-Roth, Hersh Gupta, Vienna Stack, Nick SantFoster and Richard Lopez.
Middle row: Jasmin Kahe, Raniya Mahdi, Lindsey Brenner, Caitlin Gardiner, Stephanie Davidson, YAC Rob Hathaway, YAC Sam Harris, Tommy Blanchard and Martha Moye.
Front Row: Melissa Johnson, Meghan Gerrity, Morgan McCauley, Theresa Lomiento, Kyra O’Dwyer, and Link Brown.

RAAD is a group sponsored by the Bernards Township Municipal Alliance Against Substance Abuse.  The mission of the Bernards Township Municipal Alliance Against Substance Abuse is to provide consultation, programs, training and resources to members of the Bernards Township community with the goal of preventing and reducing the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs through education, support of events and programs and presence in the community.

For more information on the Municipal Alliance or RAAD, visit