WEST ORANGE, NJ — Safety Ambassadors for the Nikhil Badlani Foundation (NBF) recently unveiled their interactive art piece at West Orange High School with local dignitaries, police and board of education members in attendance.
Founded this year, NBF formed the Nikhil Badlani Foundation Youth Advisory Board (NBFYAB) to empower high school students to have a voice in reducing the number of car crashes that occur.
"The goal of the NBFYAB is to empower our youth to make a difference in our community by providing them a channel to express their ideas," said Sangeeta Badlani, the mother of the West Orange student whom the NBF is named for. "Their mission is to evaluate, generate and develop traffic safety improvement plans. The ultimate goal is to reduce injuries and save lives from motor vehicle crashes.”
Each year, the township supports the annual Walk/Run for Nikhil, which is held at the high school and raises funds for traffic awareness safety and music scholarships for students.
Assemblyman John McKeon, who attended the unveiling, sponsored and worked for the passage of Nikhil's Law, which encourages drivers to take "Nikhil's Pledge.”
"It's great to get a driver's license, but with it comes a lot of responsibility," McKeon said in speaking to students. "What you have done has helped people's lives move forward, including the Badlanis…In the wake of tragedy, the Badlanis came to me with an incredible strategy to prevent it in others’ lives.”
McKeon and Mayor Robert Parisi unveiled the mural, which is a representation of Nikhil's Pledge. On either side of the pledge are empty stop signs that students and staff will fill in with their thumbprints after taking the pledge.
Junior Ruth Donagher designed the concept for the mural, which took students more than 10 days to complete.
"The students have taken the STOP For Nikhil Safety pledge to the next level by incorporating it into the Drivers Ed curriculum," said Badlani. "All sophomore students who pass the DMV NJ written test will now take the pledge by putting their thumbprint on it.
“I am always amazed by their creativity and passion. We are very proud of these students. They have been able to accomplish so much in such little time. They will continue to build on it each year.”
A video of the process of completing the mural will be submitted to the "U Got Brains" Champion Schools Program. Each participating school develops its own project based on a topic pertaining to teen driving safety, and received a cash stipend and technical support to assist with their campaigns. Winning schools receive a driving simulator.
All photos from the mural unveiling were provided by Cynthia Cumming.