MONTVILLE, NJ - In an effort to preserve the safety of our students and greater community, Project P.R.I.D.E was invited to the Montville Township High School auditorium on May 23.

P.R.I.D.E stands for “Promoting Responsibility in Drug Education,” with a goal to educate audiences on the harsh realities of making destructive choices and decisions. New Jersey’s Department of Corrections is the mainstay for the several incarcerated custody offenders that lead Project P.R.I.D.E presentations and spoke to the audience.

Carol Candelario, a student assistant counselor at the high school kicked of the evening and transitioned into the main event, handing it over to Mike who introduced each speaker while also giving his own perspective.

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Lost trust, scholarships and relationships does not begin to explain the deficits that the offenders have experienced; but lost freedom is something each speaker revealed as most unyielding.

Each individual illustrates their personal story of which landed them a spot up on stage and how “there will always be a spot for you,” as one of the speaker’s Nate suggests.

Putting a blind eye to the problems in our lives may be the first wrong turn down the inevitable road of dependency. Each unsolved problem is followed with a dependency that varies from person to person, but the package deal theme was similar.

Ashley began the program by narrating her journey with a prelude to her downfall. Ashley was on a great path as a superb student with high ambitions of becoming a nurse, all while being a devoted scholarship athlete.  Once Ashley started dating an overruling boyfriend, her tires began slowing down. Bit by bit, an onset of drug use, and disrespecting her family, Ashley eventually landed herself a spot in prison; a reality her father warned her of. 

Next to speak was Nate. As an adopted son, Nate introduced himself as a “momma’s boy” and loving family member. Moving into a new school district was not an easy transition for Nate, as his deep rooted fear of being unwanted surfaced. To combat that fear Nate became a drug dealer in order to impress what he thought was the “in crowd.” Another undeniably talented scholarship student athlete was confronted when the police came knocking on his door, landing him a spot in prison. “I ruined my parent's last name,” he said.

Up next was Connor. As the youngest of two older brothers in a divorced household, he approached the eighth grade without his father who moved for work and closer to his new girlfriend. Since his brother lived with his father, he kept the house, which immediately turned into a “party house” as Connor put it. Connor and his best friend Francis started their “typical” night as they got their alcohol and headed to the house. Connor revealed that was all he remembers from that night. It turns out he had been drunk driving a car that resulted in the death of his best friend Francis.

Donna was last to speak. With an alcoholic father and poor family relationship, Donna grew up very insecure in the midst of all of the horrific instances of her childhood. As a result, Donna became addicted to drugs, propelling her into a constant routine in and out of jail, and a temporary spot in prison.

Each offender confesses an “I should’ve” theme when expressing what led them to be where they are now. For instance, Ashley said, “I wish I would’ve listened to my parents.” If Ashley had listened to her parents and resisted the blind eye temptation, she would not have been dependent on drugs and the repercussions that chaperon them.  

In reality, each offender was a victim of their own perpetual mistakes stemmed from problems that were at one point in time salvageable. Project P.R.I.D.E was able to demonstrate to Montville students and members of the community that the chances of similar situations can be acquired by anyone.

This being said, it is Montville’s goal to advocate for students’ health and safety through the medium of many resources offered in every school. These resources are provided to help prevent students from heading in a bad direction.