SOMERVILLE _ Every day 5,400 young people under 16 have their first drink of alcohol.

In an effort to raise awareness about the risks and prevent underage drinking-related problems, the Safe Communities Coalition of Somerset County has announced its second annual Underage Drinking Prevention Essay Contest, being offered in collaboration with Somerset County Department of Human Services, local Municipal Alliance Commissions and EmPoWER Somerset.

“Somerset County proclaims every April as Alcohol Awareness Month,” said Freeholder Brian D. Levine, human services liaison. “County government is glad to join with our community partners to provide useful information about alcohol abuse through this essay contest.

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"We have confidence in our youth, as well as our community partners, to continue to make Somerset County the safe and educated community that we all know it to be," he added.

All public and private Somerset County high schools are invited to participate in this year’s essay contest, which is open to juniors and seniors. Each participating school will have the opportunity to select its top three student essays and submit them to the countywide essay contest by March 14.

One countywide winner, to be announced April 8, will receive a $500 scholarship and public recognition from the Somerset County Board of Chosen Freeholders.

Student essays should address three main points:

- What is the “911 Lifeline Legislation” and how will you tell your peers about it?
- For teenagers, what are the harmful effects of using alcohol?
- How can we prevent underage drinking as a community?


The Safe Communities Coalition is offering this essay contest in conjunction with “April is Alcohol Awareness Month” with the goal of reducing underage drinking and increasing awareness of the “911 Lifeline Legislation” among teens. and click on the Essay Contest tab for further information, including a customizable flyer for schools, scoring rubric and tip sheet for schools on how to make the essay contest as successful as possible and encourage student participation.

“One resource that we hope schools will take advantage of is the opportunity to partner with the Municipal Alliance Commissions, which are local groups working to prevent substance abuse in their communities,” said Brenda Esler, executive director of EmPoWER Somerset and co-chair of the Safe Communities Underage Drinking prevention workgroup.

"The Municipal Alliances can provide local support to schools in promoting the essay contest and helping to select the student entries to advance on to the county level competition.”

Schools are also encouraged to incorporate the essay as an assignment within English or health classes to maximize student participation.

The goal of the Safe Communities Coalition is to live in a safe and healthy community by eliminating drug use, underage drinking and prescription drug abuse.  Through widespread community collaboration, environmental change, and community education in Hunterdon and Somerset counties, the Safe Communities Coalition addresses areas such as reducing prescription drug abuse, as well as underage drinking and tobacco, marijuana, heroin and other illicit-drug use. 

For more information about the essay contest, contact Manny Kyei at 908-722-4900 More information about the Safe Communities Coalition is available at