Other NJ News

Somerville HS Students Design Commemorative Coin for Police Unity Tour

From left, design teacher Lisa Conklin , students Alexis Sajewski, Jeylynne Rosas, Alexander Ulikowski and Somerville Police Officer Vito Spadea. Credits: Courtesy Somerville High School
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch

SOMERVILLE, NJ – A competitive project in an advanced communications design class at Somerville High School turned into a civics lesson for 22 students who worked under deadline constraints to design a two-sided commemorative coin.

This wasn’t a project that came from the pages of a workbook, nor was it part of the curriculum at the beginning of the school year.

Somerville Police Officer Vito Spadea, the department’s community relations officer, approached Jerry Foley, SHS principal with the idea. Foley immediately approved, and together they spoke with Lisa Conklin, the design teacher who agreed to work on the project with the students in her two classes.

Sign Up for E-News

“I wanted the students to learn on their own about the Police Unity Tour,” Spadea said.

Spadea challenged the students to research the Police Unity Tour and to come up with a design for a commemorative coin to help raise funds for the grueling cross-country cycling event May 9-12 which attracts thousands of police officers from across the nation riding hundreds of miles on bicycles on their way to Washington, D.C. the location of the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum.

“They ‘googled’ the website; they didn’t know why we rode bikes, or how long the trip was,” Spadea said.

The students also learned from Spadea how supportive the Somerville community has been to the police officers who ride their bikes through town on their way to Washington DC.

Students from Immaculata High School nd Immaculate Conception School cheer the riders as they stream down Mountain Avenue before turning on to Main Street; thousands more jam Main Street in downtown Somerville as the riders arrive, passing beneath a huge American flag hung from the extended ladders of two fire trucks.  Students from Van Derveer School on Route 28 come outdoors to wish the riders well as they leave town.

“Somerville has always turned out in big numbers to show their support,” Spadea said. “A lot of the police officers from other towns that ride on the tour always tell me, ‘Nobody has anything like that.’”

The primary purpose of the Police Unity Tour is to raise awareness of Law Enforcement Officers who have died in the line of duty.

The secondary purpose is to raise funds for the police memorial and museum.

Designs were submitted on an anonymous basis, with Spadea narrowing the choice down to three different designs. Instead of choosing one of the final three, he opted to blend elements of the three designs, with bragging rights going to seniors Alexis Sajewski, Jeylynne Rosas and Alexander Ulikowski – none of whom intend to pursue design in college.

Sajewski is headed to James Madison University in Virginia and hopes to become a nurse; Rosas has been accepted at Rider University and intends to pursue a degree in criminal justice. Ulikowski will attend Raritan Valley Community College and is enrolled in the auto mechanics curriculum.

The coin is brass plated with several colors in enamel.

The coin features the mythological Wings of Mercury, the New Jersey State seal, and is ringed by a bicycle chain; it is engraved “2017, Team Somerville, From NJ to DC.”

The obverse features the American flag and the symbol of the Unity Tour, a police shield and red rose. It is engraved “2017 Police Unity Tour, We Ride for Those Who Died.”

The commemorative coin is protected by a plastic sleeve; inside, the manufacturer has included a short description including the orgin and customs of the Challenge Coin:

“Challenge Coins surfaced during the World War II era. The practice of carrying a coin designed specifically for a unit was popular with the Army Special Forces. Carrying the coin at all times and presenting it when “challenged” to prove affiliation with that unit, resulted in a number of consequences for those who could not produce a coin; the most popular required the coinless soldier to buy a round of drinks. That practice continues to be popular today.”

The use of challenge coins has broadened into the political, corporate and civilian sectors, and are used to commemorate events, as tokens of friendship and given in recognition of a job well done.

Spadea and fellow Somerville Police Officer Tim Franks are in training for the race and will dedicate their efforts to fallen police officers, including two from Somerville that were killed in the line of duty 100 years ago.

A memorial erected by Somerville PBA #147 alongside the doorway into police headquarters  memorializes Officer Manning T. Crow, shot after confronting three burglars in a butcher shop on South Street in 1899 and Officer Julius Sauer who was shot by a man threatening suicide in 1917. After shooting Sauer, the man killed himself.

Each cyclist must raise $1,850 to participate in the Unity Tour, according to Spadea. Some of that money pays for each cyclist’s hotel, food and other related expenses. What’s not spent is donated to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund.

The Somerville Police Unity Tour commemorative coin is available through Spadea for $10.

“The idea is to spread awareness,” Spadea explained. “It would be easy to ask my PBA to sponsor me for the ride, but by me asking for single contributions it helps get people to know about the ride, what it is about and have them help out.

“They’re doing their part to honor a fallen police officer,” Spadea said.

Contact Spadea online at vspadea.spd@gmail.com

Further information about the Police Unity Tour is available online at www.policeunitytour.com.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

South Brunswick-Cranbury

Police Blotter

South Brunswick and Cranbury Police Blotter

August 9, 2017

Sponsored by Reilly's Collision Center in Monmouth Junction. Click here and scroll down for the latest updates and alerts from South Brunswick and Cranbury Police.

See the most recent messages from South Brunswick Twp Police Department, powered by Nixle.

Upcoming Events

Sun, March 25, 3:00 PM

Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown

New Jersey Ballet's Hansel & Gretel

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, April 8, 1:00 PM

Roseville Presbyterian Church, Newark

Flea Market

Religions And Spirituality


Mon, April 9, 7:00 PM

LAGO, North Brunswick

Republican congressional candidate Daryl Kipnis ...


Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission Looks to Connect Families to Resources

March 20, 2018

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have ...

East Brunswick's Girl Scouts Work with a Young Woman's Busy Schedule

March 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Have you wanted to join a Girl Scout troop, but just don't have the time? Check out this out. Busy teens can be Independent Girl Scouts -- all the programs and awards without the scheduled troop meetings. Teen girls can do badge work, attend events, travel, earn awards or do community service on their own time. (And ...

Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission Looks to Connect Families to Resources

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have ...

Rutgers voices support for proposed state budget

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University officials have often been wary of the governor's annual budget message, wondering what type of budget cuts the university may sustain and how it would potentially impact tuition and the overall quality of education.

This budget message, delivered March 13, appears to be a sigh of relief.

Pete McDonough, Vice President of External Affairs at ...

Queen Mary and the Cruiser

Queen Mary and the Cruiser by David A. Thomas and Patrick Holmes (Naval Institute Press, 1997)

“Had the forenoon watch and after eating went out onto the fo'c'sle. Just arrived at the top of the ladder by the PO's heads when the wave hit me---waist high---and knocked me over. Looking astern---through the bulkhead door which was open, saw the stern of a ship sticking up out of ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

Middlesex County Young Republicans Host "Road to Victory" Event at the Green Turtle

March 21, 2018

NORTH BRUNSWICK, NJ -  Middlesex County Young Republican Chairman John Steiner would like to announce the Middlesex County Young Republicans "Road to Victory" Reception, which will take place on March 22 at the Green Turtle in North Brunswick from 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM.

This event will serve as the official launch for the 2018 campaign season for the Middlesex ...

Rep. Watson Coleman Urges Support for Students Participating in Protests: Letter to Local School Officials Asks for Encouragement Rather Than Punishment

EWING, NJ – Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) sent letters to principals and other school administrators in New Jersey’s 12th Congressional District urging support and encouragement for students who engage in protests and demonstrations for gun violence prevention amid reports that some New Jersey schools had suspended or otherwise punished students for their ...

ECSNJ Partnership with Rutgers Behavioral Health Helps Students Manage Life’s Challenges

PISCATAWAY – A collaboration with Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care is providing more behavioral and emotional support for students attending two Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ) schools.

Appearing on ESCNJ’s Better Together podcast, Assistant Superintendent Gary Molenaar said Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care “is a recognized ...