LAMBERTVILLE, NJ – On May 24, 2018, the New Jersey Clean Communities Council  Valerie Diamond of Berkeley Heights with the state-wide Adopt-A-Beach Award at the 15th Annual Clean Communities Conference held in Lambertville, New Jersey. 

A distinguished crowd was present at this well-attended event, as various towns, counties, groups, and individuals were recognized through assorted awards for their efforts regarding environmental conservation and public lands stewardship.  While certain other awards shared multiple winners, Ms. Diamond, a sophomore at Governor Livingston High School, was the sole winner in the Adopt-A-Beach award category and the only non-adult award winner.

Ms. Diamond, who began participating in the state-wide Adopt-A-Beach Clean Water Challenge last year, elevated her level of participation in this effort this year. Through her group, Val’s Valiants, she led one clean up event in 2017, collecting approximately 75 pounds of litter.  This year, she continued her campaign to keep Berkeley Heights clean and to inspire others to do so as well.  During March and April 2018, Val’s Valiants was involved in leading six clean up events, collecting a total of over 550 pounds of litter.

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Proving that one person can, in fact, make a big difference, Ms. Diamond was the spark that ignited her community to action.  She sought and received the sponsorship and support for these clean ups from the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission. The clean ups were open to the public, received press coverage, and attracted participation from a broad cross section of the community.  In addition to Environmental Commission members and their families participating in one or more of these clean ups, children, parents, and other adults - including elected officials - all pitched in to clean up.

Ms. Diamond also educated her community about the dangers of Whip-Its and nitrous oxide usage, having found a bag containing approximately 30 Whip-Its just a few feet from the roadway during one of her clean ups.  After conducting independent research, Ms. Diamond learned that nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, is the most common inhalant of choice among middle school students nationally. In effort to raise local awareness about this issue that community members may not have known existed, she submitted a Letter to the Editor detailing the results of this particular clean up as well as the dangers associated with Whip-Its.

“I appreciated the opportunity to join Valerie and her mom and dad at this great event,” said Mayor Robert Woodruff who attended the Conference, representing Berkeley Heights in support of Ms. Diamond’s accomplishment.  “Another example
of our volunteerism on display. We are all proud of this exceptional young lady!”