Plans for the HiTOPS half marathon on November 4, Princeton’s first half marathon in over 20 years, is, in part, a result of a collaboration between HiTOPS Teen Council alumnae Jennifer Chung, and Gloria Orellana.
Ms. Chung and Ms Orellana have been working side-by-side with HiTOPS staff for nearly two years to bring the Princeton Half Marathon to fruition.
HiTOPS developed the Princeton half Marathon as a platform for raising awareness about the importance of adolescent health to community health. Although adolescence is generally a healthy time of life, behavioral problems — such as smoking, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, eating disorders, and suicide ideation — can either begin or peak during adolescence, and can determine health status and risk for chronic diseases in adulthood. HiTOPS teaches young people the importance of making healthy decisions by weighing actions and consequences. The 2012 half marathon is highlighting the importance of early mental health screening.
The Princeton Half Marathon reached its cap at 1,000 runners three months after its announcement, and will bring runners from 18 states and three different countries. Residents along the course have offered their lawns for stationing water tables. Volunteers from all over the community are invited to assist in passing out water to runners.
“This is what it’s all about,” said Ms. Chung, “I wanted the race to be about the Princeton community and making positive changes in people’s lives. Who else but HiTOPS embodies that exact sentiment?”
Part of the attraction to the Princeton Half Marathon is the opportunity for participants to explore the town’s lesser known pockets of nature and history. “Princetonians are committed to health, fitness, and achieving goals,” Ms. Chung said. “Princeton was the perfect place to spark this health effort.”
As a Teen Council member during the 1996-1997 school year, Ms. Orellana remembers feeling that she was a part of a group that made a difference. “The Princeton Half Marathon excites me because it is an event that celebrates health and well-being in many ways,” she commented. “It celebrates its runners who run the distance, the tremendous community involvement, and the mission of bringing health education and crucial health services to the youth in the community I grew up in.”
Ms. Chung, who was in the HiTOPS Middle School Teen Council in 1999-2000, said that she “absorbed all the lessons and values she taught to fellow peers — including building confidence in one’s body and actions, and thinking for oneself.”
HiTOPS’s Teen Council is a select group of peer educators who receive 224 hours of leadership training and sexual health education, and present up to 30 peer education workshops a year. Last year, 1,200 youngsters benefitted from programs in schools, juvenile justice facilities, and community organizations.
HiTOPS is a non-profit organization located in Mercer County. For nearly 25 years, HiTOPS has provided adolescents with knowledge, risk reduction strategies, and resources to help them reduce risk behaviors and make health enhancing decisions. For more information about HiTOPS, visit www.hitops.org.