WRI Staff Organizers
WRI Staff Organizers (from left to right: Caitlin Boehmcke, Shelby Tucker, Tracy Swan, Luck McKetta, Matt Galey, and Lauren Snow)

The Cumberland County Positive Youth Development Coalition (CCPYDC), a juvenile delinquency prevention effort staffed by The Walter Rand Institute, recently celebrated the success of its Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Initiative at its Stand Up for Gun Safety Event at Cumberland County College. The June 8th event highlighted CCPYDC’s three part awareness campaign, including: Gun Safety Education, the designation of June as Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Month, and the student Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Public Service Announcement Contest.

CCPYDC, in collaboration with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, and Cumberland Empowerment Zone’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers, adapted Eddie Eagle’s gun safety program for use with area middle school students. These students learned the importance of gun safety and important actions to take when encountering gun. The program has been rolled out at the following 21st Century Community Learning sites: Cherry Street School (Bridgeton), Landis Middle School (Vineland), Lakeside Middle School (Millville), and Port Norris School (Port Norris). Eddie Eagle himself was present at the celebration to support gun safety and violence awareness efforts. CCPYDC honored several guests for their contribution in bringing gun safety education to fruition, including Sheriff Officer Craig Johnson, Sheriff Officer Ryan Riley and Cindy Angelo, Education Programs Director at Cumberland Empowerment Zone.

The event also celebrated the designation of June as Gun safety and Violence Awareness Month in Cumberland County – a New Jersey state first. CCPYDC teamed up with the Boys and Girls Club of Vineland to spread a message of increased gun safety practices and gun violence reduction. WRI staff, coalition members, and youth from the Boys and Girls Club, including the Boys and Girls Club New Jersey Youth of the Year, Alexia Lewis, traveled to municipality meetings across the county asking township councils to pass CCPYDC’s June designation resolution. The following municipalities have declared June as Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Month: Bridgeton, Commercial, Deerfield, Fairfield, Greenwich, Hopewell, Lawrence, Maurice River, Millville, and Vineland, as well as Cumberland County.

Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Public Service Announcement Contest videos were screened, and winning teams received prizes at the event as well. Local Cumberland County high school students were asked to create 30 second PSA videos on the topics of gun safety and gun violence awareness. The runner-up video Gun Safety ‘For the New Generation’ came from Bridgeton High School students Terry Solórzano, Karina Gonzalez, William Loatman, Andrew Silva, James Johnson Cowles, and Julian Lalane. Each runner-up received a $20 gift card donated by Cumberland County School Based Youth Services Programs, a $25 gift certificate to the Phenom Factory in Millville, NJ and a free Chick-Fil-A meal. The winning video The Price of Pulling the Trigger was submitted by Juan Lucero-Flores, Christian Falcone, Darryl Thompson, Serena Alicea, and Michael DeLuisi, also from Bridgeton High School. Each winner received a $100 gift card provided by the Cumberland County School Based Youth Services Programs and a free Chick-Fil-A meal. These winning videos will be aired on local television stations. The Coalition also honored those who assisted in the implementation of the video PSA contest: judges Dr. Robert Emmons (Rutgers University), Kevin Malone (Glasstown Productions), Dr. William Addison (Cumberland County College), Dr. Charles Kocher (Cumberland County College), and facilitators Kevin Milbourne (Bridgeton Public Schools), and James Boner (Bridgeton High School).

The night’s festivities concluded with a raffle. Esther Rodriguez, 21st Century Site Coordinator of Landis Intermediate School, won two tickets to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. Alexis Webb, CEO and Co-Founder of TCI Solutions, won a backpack full of Boys and Girls Club merchandise. Adianez Negron of the Boys and Girls Club of Vineland won a Wawa gift basket. Officer Jason Scalzi of the Vineland Police Department, Derek Clark, SNJ Cameraman, and County Freeholder Carmen Daddario won VIP passes for five to Steel Pier in Atlantic City, NJ. Raymond Marcolongo of the Cumberland County Judiciary received two tickets to a Phillies vs. Marlins game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. All raffle prizes were donated to support gun safety and gun violence awareness initiatives. Guests also received a coupon for a free frosty at Wendy’s.

To close out the night, Freeholder Director Joseph Derella asked community members to help celebrate June as Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Month by talking to youth about gun safety, and asking them to take the gun safety pledge.

The Gun Safety Pledge:

If you see a gun…