Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 20
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
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Corner House Celebrates Its Student Leaders With Awards, Certificates, and Good Wishes

Ellen Gilbert

“Leadership,” one of Corner House’s three guiding principles (the other two are “prevention” and “treatment”), was front and center at the joint municipal agency’s student leadership awards ceremony on Monday evening at Township Hall.

Representatives of both municipalities, Corner House board and staff members, and families were present as students, most of them seniors from area high schools, were honored for their service to the non-profit organization that seeks to combat substance abuse in the community.

“This is a wonderful group of students, great achievers, who do wonderful things for the community,” said Township Mayor Bernie Miller. “They’re absolutely amazing.”

Members of the Teen Advisory Group (TAG), a peer educator/leadership program sponsored by Corner House and the Princeton Alcohol and Drug Alliance (PADA), received training in substance abuse awareness and prevention as 11th graders. The 22 students on the TAG Team represented Princeton High School, Princeton Day School, the Hun School, and Stuart Country Day School. Each TAG member signed a pledge stating that they would not use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs during their junior year.

TAG members met one evening a week to learn about substance abuse and related issues, and to develop workshops designed for students in grades five through eight, as well as parent workshops.

A highlight of Monday’s program was the presentation of the Harriet Robertson Student Leadership Award to Shyam Modi, in recognition of his “outstanding services and dedication to Corner House.” The Student Leadership Award was created to honor the dedication and spirit of Ms. Robertson, who retired from the Corner House Foundation Board in 2008. The award includes a $1,000 scholarship.

“Shyam exemplifies the Corner House message,” said Director Gary De Blasio. “He contributes 100 percent in all aspects of his life.” Mr. Modi, who is also the recipient of a PHS gold key service award for over 200 hours of tutoring, will attend Princeton University in the fall. “There’s going to be a void next year,” he said as he accepted his award and contemplated moving on.

Princeton University senior Aran Clair, recipient of the Corner House Community Service Award, was recognized for “his commitment to the Corner House Student Leadership teams and the youth of Princeton.” Mr. De Blasio praised Mr. Clair for being “a knowledgeable voice who responded to the questions of concerned parents,” and a model of “how to have fun during college without alcohol or drugs.” Mr. Clair’s other accomplishments included helping to ensure that the University’s “bicker process” occurred without incident this year, and, as Inter-Club Council president of the eating clubs of Princeton, encouraging them to participate in community service projects.

“‘No’ is the hardest word in the English language, especially for kids who consistently say ‘no’ to alcohol and drugs while they’re in high school,” said Mr. Clair as he accepted his award.

“You really can make a difference, even if only one kid hears your message,” said Corner House Student Board president Sheeba Arif, accepting a bouquet of flowers from Mr. De Blasio.

“We can’t solve all the issues in the world, but just getting people to think about some of them seems like a pretty big achievement,” observed Ms. Arif. Describing Corner House as “a place that I cherish,” she noted the importance of “cooperation and collaboration” in the students’ efforts, and expressed pleasure at having had the opportunity to work with municipal officials.

Quoting Woodrow Wilson on the purpose of education, Emil Jhang expressed appreciation for the widened perspective Corner House training provided.

In addition to Mr. Miller, Township Committee members Lance Liverman and Liz Lempert, and Borough Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller were also present to congratulate the honorees.

“I’m going to exercise my mayoral prerogative,” said Mr. Miller as the ceremonies concluded. “I challenge those of you who are leaving for the next stage of your education to pass on what you have learned and experienced to those who will follow you. I’ve got expectations for each of you,” he added.

Corner House is currently wrapping up its interviews to select members of next year’s teams. Mr. DeBlasio happily reported that there were over 50 applications for 22 spots.

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