CRANFORD, NJ — The Cranford Municipal Alliance takes a proactive approach to preventing drug use in the community by hosting events throughout the year to bring people together to participate in activities that don’t involve drugs. The organization is volunteer-based and they work to promote awareness about substance abuse.
They use the following strategies to education the public:
The first strategy is to communicate to parents that 21 means 21. There is no excuse for underage drinking. Some parents think they can teach their children to drink responsibly at a young age, or that a drink at home under parental supervision is acceptable. The organization disagrees with this philosophy and emphasizes the importance of being law-abiding citizens when it comes to drugs, including alcohol.
The second strategy is to educate children about social norms. Although substance abuse might seem socially acceptable, the majority of people are sober. Most people don’t condone the use of drugs.
“The truth is, the majority of students at Cranford High School don’t use drugs,” said Cranford Municipal Alliance Chairman William Ilaria. “Even if it seems like everyone is drinking, most parents don’t condone the use of alcohol or other drugs. Our mission is to empower the ‘silent majority’ with positive messaging.”
There is a program aimed at Cranford High School students called “Social Norms.” It communicates survey facts to students that the majority of students at Cranford High School don’t use alcohol to have fun. They also participate at back to school nights to provide parents with prevention education materials.
An important approach to prevent teen drug abuse is to ensure families spend time together. Families that have dinner together every night are less likely to have teenagers that use drugs. This inspired the annual cookout that took place May 22 this year. It consists of a family barbeque where Cranford residents can enjoy the company of their families in a drug-free environment. The organization also provides families with awareness of ways in which they can reduce the likelihood of their children using drugs.
“The townwide barbeque was started last year, and this year we partnered with the Cranford Community Connection that is offering an ‘Explore Cranford Weekend’ with various family-friendly activities throughout the weekend,” said Cranford Municipal Alliance publicist Alex Paulyson.
The town-wide family dinner event includes free food, fire station tours, live music, crafts, face painting, a dunk tank and much more entertainment for the whole family. The Cranford Community Connection provided families a day full of events prior to the cookout that included the annual Centennial Village 5K and “Pedal! Paddle! Explore!” This police-escorted family bike ride through town is a 10-mile voyage of the town of Cranford.
There are also programs such as Project Graduation and Project Alert. Project Alert is a series of programs conducted by Cranford School District Research Officers for middle school students to educate them about substance abuse. Project Graduation provides the graduating class of Cranford High School with a drug-free celebration on graduation night. Most students participate in this event, so the majority of students aren’t using drugs to celebrate.
“I’ve been part of the Alliance for a little less than a year and I’m honored to work with such caring, dynamic and creative people,” said Paulyson. “We all bring different strengths to the table. It’s very easy to have the mindset that things haven’t changed since we were kids, but the sad truth is, it has. Alcohol is more readily available, and we know more now in terms of the effects than we did 30 years ago. Drugs are not only more readily available, but the potency is nearly twice as strong, and there’s a whole new category of synthetic drugs and prescription drugs. Our goal is to educate not only children within our community but also the parents. We feel that as long as we have a strong parental bond within the community, we have a great chance of making a difference. As they say, it takes a village…”