A Teacher and Students Share Their Experiences Taking Part in PDFNJ’s Middle School PSA Challenge


Throughout the month of August, we have turned our blog over to some of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) school-based initiative participants, so they can share their firsthand experiences with our programs.

This week we are hearing from Kristen Prentice, a teacher from Tenafly Middle School whose students submitted last year’s winning script for the Middle School PSA Challenge. Each year the PSA Challenge ask students to submit scripts for a 30-second public service announcement that focuses on peer-to-peer messages to help children better cope with peer pressure when it comes to substance abuse or misuse.  She stalks about her experience with the program.  To view the PSA click here.

Additionally, Camilla Chavez, Ella Kloby, and Giuliana Zazzara, three 6th grade students from Grant School in South Plainfield, who submitted the winning script for 2019/2020 Challenge share their take on the program and offer insights into how they came up with their PSA entitled, “Cool Things”.

If someone you know might be interested in submitting a script for the 2020/2021 Middle School PSA Challenge please click here

Also, to note, as we are winding down the last few weeks of summer, and PDFNJ is running the Don’t Get Hooked On Drugs Fishing Tournament through August 30th.  Click here to learn more and be sure to enter.

All the best,

Angelo Valente


A Great Experience with the PDFNJ Middle School PSA Challenge
By Kristen Prentice

As a drama and theater teacher, I was thrilled to be able to offer students an opportunity to take part in PDFNJ’s Middle School PSA Contest.  It was a great way for the students to integrate real life situations into the classroom, excellent practice for the kids to work on their play writing skills, and sent a positive message on top of all that.  All of the students had a truly enriching experience and their parents were thrilled as well. This is project that I plan on being a part of every year. 


The Student’s First Hand Experience
By Camila Chavez, Ella Kloby, and Giuliana Zazzara


Camila Chavez (left), Ella Kloby (center) & Giuliana Zazzara (right)

What made you decide to enter the PDFNJ Middle School PSA Challenge?

Camila - Well, it all started with our very enthusiastic counselor Mrs. Strayhorn, who enters the Grant School Peer Leaders Club into the competition each year. She suggested the idea of participating in it to us (me, Ella, and Giuliana), and we took the challenge, since it sounded like a great opportunity!

 Ella - I decided to enter the contest because the use of drugs and alcohol is a big issue that teens and adults face today. I was determined to collaborate with a group to inform everyone that drinking alcohol and taking drugs is not a trend that should be set for our younger generation and is not the path to a productive life. My aspiration for this video is that when others watch it they will become influenced to spread the message. In the long run, I hope that this video will help encourage a drug-free life for everyone. 

Giuliana - I decided to enter the contest because I wanted to help people have a better understanding of peer pressure and how to combat it if you were put in that position.

How did you come up with your idea?

Camila - Before our winning script, we had another one that was quite different from this one. In the end, we decided it wouldn’t work out, since there were speaking parts that were bigger for certain people, and we felt it wasn’t interesting enough. We really wanted our video to have an impact with the kids and teens who would watch it if we won, so we thought “What better way to get their attention than by using something that’s popular, or ‘cool’?”. That was how we came up with the idea of using the Renegade dance from Tik Tok, and listing what things are cool to do before making our “major statement” of saying no to drugs and alcohol.

Ella - Our idea was initially created by thinking of what could catch our peers’ attention and help them understand that this is a huge problem that is impacting our society. The answer was that students today are obsessed with activities that make them feel cool. This theme translated into drugs and alcohol are not a cool trend. My group and I then got together and thought of things that can make children feel cool. 

Giuliana - I came up with my idea because I tried to think of things that were considered “cool” like eating ice cream and listening to music and compare it to drugs and alcohol which some people may say it's cool to do but it's not. I was trying to get the message across that you don't have to impress others and do drugs and alcohol to seem cool. You should only do things that you are comfortable with and do things that make you happy not what makes other people happy.

Kids can face a lot of peer pressure when it comes to trying drugs or alcohol. What did you want kids who watch your PSA to know about rising above the pressure and living a healthy lifestyle?

Camila - What I wanted kids and teens to know watching our PSA is that they shouldn’t make decisions today that they know might, or will cause problems in the future. It doesn’t matter how cool it seems at the moment, whether everybody else is doing it, or whether your friends are telling you to. Plus, you don’t want to be exactly like everybody else and follow what they’re doing, especially when you know it’s just wrong. Dare to be yourself!

Ella - I hope that kids who watch my PSA will know that drugs and alcohol aren’t cool and should not be taken under any circumstances. There are other things that are cool that won’t damage your lifestyle and health. 

Giuliana - I want them to know that drugs and alcohol are not something that is healthy for you and that it's not cool to do those things even if other people say it is. I also want them to learn that they don’t have to impress others by doing drugs and alcohol to seem cool.

 What would you tell someone who might be interested in participating in this contest next year?

Camila - I would tell them to DEFINITELY try it out! This was a great decision that we took, in my opinion, and I do not regret it! Even if we hadn’t won, coming up with ideas, polishing up the script, and filming it was truly amazing, and I had a great time!

Ella - My main tip for someone who might be interested in participating in this contest next year is to find a counselor that is there for any questions and who supports you and your ideas. This was an informative and fun experience and I am proud that I was a part of it.

Giuliana - I would tell them to not give up on it because it may seem like a lot of work but it ends up being so much fun!! In the beginning I honestly wouldn’t have minded if we lost the contest because the experience was great!

Notice: This article reflects the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ). This information should not be construed as legal advice from the author or PDFNJ. Please consult your own attorney before making any legal decisions

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