Recently the students in College LEADS at Bergen Community College and Ridgewood Teen LEADS held their presentations of their projects. These programs, modeled after Bergen LEADS, allow students to take a deep dive into the inner workings of Bergen County and explore how public policy impacts our neighbors. Both groups of students were breath-taking in their insights, their compassion and their fierce commitment to stay civically engaged.
This year marked the first time we have offered College LEADS at Bergen Community College. Although no credit was offered, 40 students willing participated in the program to learn more about the community. They chose to study the heroin and opioid epidemic plaguing Bergen County. With site visits to the Bergen County Jail, the Housing, Health and Human Service Center, Paramus Police Department, Paramus Ambulance Corp, Holy Name Medical Center Emergency Department, Spring House and the CarePlus Outpatient program and teachers and administrators of the Riverdell School District, the students gained incredible insight into struggles of addiction and recovery.
Their presentation was marked by sensitivity and compassion. Each student spoke of how moved they were by the honesty and courage of those in recovery. They were awed by the commitment of recovery counselors and staff members at their site visits.
Most importantly, each student spoke of a renewed commitment to help others understand the disease of addiction and to helping reduce the stigma so that people can confidently seek help.
One student ended the presentation by quoting one of his favorite movies as a child “Barnyard:”
“A strong man stands up for himself; a stronger man stands up for others.”
Here is a short film they created: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9l-LMHcJjY&t=1s.