The grand prize went to fifth grader Clarisse Noristz of Salem Drive School in Whippany. Other winners included Bloomfield resident and Carteret School student Rakeen King.
ThinkFirst, a national injury prevention program, teaches students how to avoid traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, and about the consequences of such injuries. Kessler Foundation sponsors the N.J. ThinkFirst chapter, which reached 11,569 students this year.
Students were encouraged to participate in Kessler Foundation’s annual ThinkFirst poster contest for cash prizes. Those in kindergarten through junior high created posters that best represent one or more of the key lessons of ThinkFirst; high school students were tested through a quiz. One winner from each school is chosen by an internal committee to receive a $100 prize. This year, 26 winners were chosen. An overall poster winner is awarded the grand prize of $200.
Judging each year is held before Memorial Day, the weekend with the highest rates of spinal cord injuries in N.J., mainly due to failure to wear seat belts and helmets, as well as diving into shallow water. The posters are judged by staff, patients and care givers at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, where the posters are hung.
“I want to thank the staff from all the schools for supporting ThinkFirst,” said Susan Helmstetter, director of the N.J. ThinkFirst chapter. “With technology increasingly at our fingertips, it is important for students to learn from a very young age that texting while driving is just as risky as not wearing your seatbelt. Students now have the opportunity to use these lessons and educate their parents and loved ones on how to protect themselves from life-changing injuries.”
The program also features Voices for Injury Prevention, individuals with injuries to their brains and/or spines, who share their stories. This year, New Jersey's Charles Fleisher won the national ThinkFirst VIP of the Year Award for educating students on the potential consequences of risky behaviors, marking the first year that a New Jerseyan has been nominated. Fleisher, who was paralyzed after suffering a spinal cord injury in a car accident at age 18, has delivered over 400 presentations to more than 40,000 students.