BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The TREND Club is trending at Governor Livingston High School.
Executive Board members of the “TREND” Club updated board members on the activities, goals and funding of one of the oldest clubs in the school’s history. TREND is the acronym for “Turning Recreation Events into New Directions.” The goal of the group is to “promote a drug- and alcohol-free life style by offering fun and exciting activities to the student body,” according to the group’s page on the district’s website.
Thursday evening, Feb. 1, four members of the executive board and the club’s Advisor Bob Segear gave an overview of the club to the board. They each spoke to an aspect of the club’s work, using a slide show to illustrate their points and show photos of the club’s activities.
There are 17 members of the executive board, [are all volunteers, each of whom must submit an application, with their parents’ approval, and get a recommendation, to become a member of the board]. The board’s mission is to provide educational and fun activities “to demonstrate that we can still have fun at the high school level in a drug- and alcohol-free environment," said Segear, who called them “amazing role models” for students at the high school.
Nick Zambrotta, a senior, gave the history of the club, which has grown exponentially. The nationwide-club was formed in 1987 by a group of teens in St. Louis, Mo., who wanted to offer an alternative to keg parties and other alcohol- and drug-centered activities. Since its founding, the group has expanded and has organizations at high schools and colleges across the country. The club in the past has been funded by the Berkeley Heights and Mountainside Municipal Alliances, and Prevention Links. “This year the club also received a $5,000 grant from the Watts Foundation to assist with the presentation of The Days of Realization,” which is produced every other year, he said.
Brianna Hui explained that for The Days of Realization TREND members turn the Governor Livingston High School “auditorium into a wake … create tombstones … and write letters” asking local businesses for donations for the program which goes on for two days. The experience showcases the dangers of alcohol and drugs. The next year the club organizes the fatal motor vehicle re-enactment with the Berkeley Heights Fire Department, Mountainside First Aid Squad and Atlantic Health System’s helicopter. The Days of Realization presentation will take place this year. Preparation began in January and continues through April.
Other educational programs put on by TREND include the Safety Bug driving experience, and “Sticker Shock,” alcohol awareness campaign, in which students design stickers to place on package goods to remind people purchasing the alcohol the legal consequences of letting underage people have the beverages. The winning designs in the competition will be produced and student will place them on package goods in local businesses, she said.
When the club is not putting on large presentations, there are some other events that help remind the student body “we can have fun without drug and alcohol,” Hui said said.
Gavin Jakositz described the events that happen though out the year, beginning with a meet and greet in September. In October, “we always do a pumpkin decorating contest and every member competes to make the best pumpkin, which is voted on by the entire school. The winner receives a gift card,” he said, and most people take it very seriously.
Other events include a movie and ice cream night; a karaoke night, with the winner getting a gift card.
Members also participate in the New Jersey Shuts Down Drugs, music competition. Students create their own songs about drugs and alcohol and “that gets them into a state-wide competition, where the top three songs get a prize -- $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000,” Jakositz said.
Caroline Peer said TREND organizes “many student activities that create a happy atmosphere for the students such as going bowling and the pumpkin decorating contest.” She showed the calendar of events for the students, which is posted at school and for which announcements are made. “It’s all about getting students together, focusing on the good, rather than being out in the world doing things you are not supposed to be doing,” she said.
TREND members also visit and share information with students at Columbia Middle School.
Board members asked questions of the students.
Chris Reilly asked if the dangers of texting were also included in the program.
Zambrotta said that it is included in the Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident program, which is very realistic. “It’s a very striking experience which really leaves a lot of kids awed and really educates kids about even when you are not intoxicated under a substance, you can still do damage to somebody’s life.”
Dr. Gerard Crisonino asked “What’s the vibe from other students about TREND?”
Peer replied, “The students come to events because they know they will have a good time.” About 10 percent of the school population participates in the various activities.
Seager added, during a recent event, more than 200 students attended.
Hui reminded everyone, “All our activities are inclusive, you don’t have to go to all the events or meetings, you can come anytime you want.”
Denis Smiley asked, “If there are two or three events where you think students will have problems with substance abuse, do you have events around that time, so you can talk to the students?”
Zambrotta replied that the Days of Realization event happens just before prom weekend. It’s like “a huge wakeup call ... I think it wakes up people before (the prom) to not make bad choices.” Also, the pumpkin competition is just before Halloween.