“We didn’t invite alcohol to this party,” says Samantha Novack, 13.
A group of cheerleaders look to the rebel, expressing their displeasure: “We don’t cheer for beer,” one of them says.
After the friend trashes the beer, everyone returns to the revelry.
This is the set-up for the winning commercial, written by four Jefferson Township Middle School students, in the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey’s 15th annual Middle School Public Service Announcement Challenge. The contest was open to students in grades 5 to 8 from schools across New Jersey and judged by a panel of drug prevention officials and representatives from the state’s film industry.
Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey sent a film crew Wednesday to the Weldon Road school to shoot the 30-second spot, which features the four teens who authored it: Novack, Mikaela Quigley, Abigail Pearl and Brianna Lizotte.
“We wanted to send a message that doing the right thing is cool,” Novack said. “You don’t need alcohol to have a good time.”
The challenge was to write a script for a substance abuse prevention television commercial, said Angela Conover, a spokeswoman for the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, whose mission is to work with media to “unsell” drugs to youth in the state.
“We feel that having students targeting other students conveys a more powerful message,” Conover said.
While Novack said she and her friends have never been offered beer at a party, they have peers who “are doing stuff they shouldn’t,” she said.
“A DARE program at school teaches about the dangers of drugs and alcohol,” she said. “Sometimes kids don’t pay attention in school, but they do watch TV.”
The four winning teens were joined by a cast of 30 friends — 29 girls and one boy — who filmed the party scene in the teacher’s lounge, which was decorated by the PTA for the occasion, Novack said.
The teens were joined by Barbara Francavilla, a school student assistance counselor who helped the teens enter their script into the contest. Francavilla, a 12-year educator, said this was the first time Jefferson Middle School students had entered it.
“I’m impressed by the storyline they developed and how quickly it came together,” she said. “It’s been a high-energy, enthusiastic day. Everyone is happy and proud of each other to be getting this ‘no-use’ message out.”
Once the PSA has been edited, Conover said it will be distributed to media outlets throughout the state and will air next fall.