St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, took time Sept. 27 to educate parishioners about the dangers of drug abuse through a program titled “Project PRIDE” (Promoting Responsibility in Drug Education). The event was sponsored by St. Mary’s ENOUGH Addiction Ministry, founded in January by St. Mary pastor, Msgr. Ken Tuzeneu.
Offered by the New Jersey Department of Corrections, Project PRIDE brings minimum custody inmates from a state correctional facility into schools to talk about their personal experiences with drugs and alcohol. The main purpose of PRIDE is for others to hear, firsthand, the results that alcohol and drug abuse have on a person’s life and consider these consequences when faced with making personal choices.
St. Mary’s youth ministry member Toni Marchlewski, a freshman in Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River, offered this reflection on the evening:
I whole-heartedly love the presentation the NJ State Department of Corrections gave on September 27, 2018. I am 14 years old, and I always find myself thinking, “Will that ever be me?”
When I was in middle school, my principal would set up presentations for all grades. During these presentations sometimes, we would get police officers that came or family members to talk to us about the use of alcohol, drugs and the consequences. Normally, the kids would have side conversations and not listen to the people talking, but I always listened. Almost always, the stories wouldn’t register with me, and eventually I stopped listening because it was the same story over and over again. That all changed once I went to the Project PRIDE presentation.
I went into the room thinking that this would be like all other presentations. Once I walked into where the audience was going to sit and saw all the police officers around, I thought the officers were going to give the presentations. When I realized that the inmates from the Department of Corrections were going to tell their story, I was a little skeptical.
When they started telling their story, it was enlightening. It was very interesting to hear all the different stories and the backgrounds that they came from. Once I heard their backgrounds, I started to wonder again if I would become like them. I keep telling myself “that won’t be me,” but after their presentations, I wasn’t quite too sure.
I found it more inspiring to her the stories from the people who have gone through this journey themselves. I was dumbfounded that once the adults came out of prison, they couldn’t get a job in the government or teaching field because of their criminal record. I realized that if I ever want to become a police officer, I have to make sure, at all costs, I do not follow the same path they did.
Overall, I enjoyed this presentation – and it taught me, you never know if it could be you. And, to make sure it is not you, don’t hang around with people who are going to get you in trouble! I also learned that the worst thing you can do is establish a criminal record, and to avoid it at all costs.
To learn more about St. Mary’s ENOUGH Addiction Ministry, call the parish, 609-698-6255.