LIVINGSTON, NJ – On the morning of March 6, 55 vendors manned their stations at the Livingston High School annual Wellness Fair.  Every year different organizations from the community participate in this event to help educate the students on different mental and physical health issues. 

“Our goal in providing this event is to help our students engage in programs that they can take and utilize in their lives in some way,” said Ann De Gennaro, Wellness Fair Coordinator. Ann is part of a select group of Livingston High teachers and students who were asked to design a program for social and emotional wellbeing.

“We really try to get a cross-section of wellness and fitness vendors to address the variety of health interests and needs of our students and to give them good information to make choices,” said Andrew Krupa, District Health, Physical Education and Nursing Supervisor. Volunteer organizations were diverse and included members of public safety, philanthropic groups, medical organizations, mental support groups, and companies providing outdoor and physical education.  Krupa explained that, “Some vendors are talking to the students about career options such as counseling and physical therapy.”

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Livingston High Senior Hasan Khan shared that “My favorite was Atlantic Transport because they talked to us about their day to day routine.  I might be interested in doing that in college since I want to be a doctor.”  Another Senior, Austin Zudeck said that “Some of the kids won’t care, but the ones that do will really take it to heart and make more healthy choices. I personally signed up to donate blood.”

Some vendors also provided information about volunteer opportunities in the community. “I think kids will be more likely to volunteer when they are given these resources,” said Shirangi Khanna, Livingston High Senior.  “Instead of kids having to get on the computer to do research they can come here and see their options.” 

Julie Russell from the American Cancer Society spoke to students about her organization’s top fundraising event.  “It’s been good, we’ve gotten interest from the kids to volunteer for the Relay for Life event coming up in June.”

An echoing voice amongst vendors expressed enthusiasm for working with the high school age group.  “I’m very impressed with the fair,” said Debbie Goldberg from the Silverstrom Group.  “This is awesome, especially for these kids because this is the age they start to care.”  At a booth only a few feet away, Ellen Palestine with The NJ Sharing Network said, “To me this is the perfect age to talk about organ donation because they can chose to be one.  “I think they need to be educated on how many lives they can save.”  Palestine has been volunteering with the NJ Organ and Tissue Sharing Network since 2001, the same year her teenaged son David received a new heart.

Vendor displays were detailed and some included hands on demonstrations. DriveSafer, a group that specializes in motor vehicle safety provided the students with a driving simulation station. “The kids love this,” said Bob Gallo, Director of Business Development at DriveSafer.  “We use this as a tool to educate. If you teach just by talking they’ll learn something, but not as much as when they are hands on.” The Livingston Police also brought goggles that simulated impaired vision as a result of intoxication, and Horizon provided a light box which revealed to the user all visible signs of permanent skin damage caused by excessive tanning.

Other organizations in attendance included the American Diabetes Association, Barre3 Fitness Studio, the West Essex YMCA, Livingston Fire/Frist Aid, Future Fshionista’s, High Gear Cyclery, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention Team (ADAPT), Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth, St. Barnabas, Complete Martial Arts, New Jersey Special Olympics, Seeing Eye Institute, Tyson/Land O Lakes, PLFLAG of Northern New Jersey, REI Outdoors and many more.