Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Trains 180 Safety Ambassadors
The Safety Ambassador program trains volunteer high school students in safety topics and then has them present the information to first and second grade students in their home districts.
180 high schoolers will be taking to area elementary schools this spring to discuss safety topics with their younger peers.
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital's Safety Ambassador program recruits high school students to act as liaisons for the hospital in presenting safety information to grade school children.
19 schools are participating in this year's program, including New Brunswick High School, which joined for the first time.
Teams of about a dozen junior and senior students are chosen by their respective principals and teachers for participation, and then are put through a training program that includes a one-day seminar at the hospital, a kit to take with them to assist in giving their presentations, and several months of designing and refining their presentations with the help of teachers and hospital staff.
In February, the high school students will begin the presentations in the elementary school classrooms, visiting their younger peers once a month for four months, each time to discuss a different topic.
Carol Lavitt, the program's coordinator, said the program is in line with the "Risk Watch" curriculum, an injury prevention curriculum that was designed by the National Fire Protection Association and the National Safe Kids Campaign.
Diana Starace, Injury Prevention Coordinator for the hospital, said the four topics chosen - falls prevention, pedestrian safety, safety in and around cars and safety in wheeled sports - make up the highest concentration of injuries in young children seen in the hospital emergency room.
Falls and transportation-related injuries make up about 40 percent of all injuries seen in the emergency room in total, she said.
On Tuesday, students heard from a number of professionals as to how to design effective presentations. Puppet shows, songs and skits and interactive activities are the key to keeping grade school kids interested, according to organizers.
The program also utilizes the respect and awe first and second graders have for their older peers, Starace said.
"A lot of studies show that (high school age students) are well received by younger kids," she said.
New Brunswick High School sent eight students from its Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID program.
"So far it seems real interesting," said Brandon Santos, 16, and a junior at the high school.
Santos said that as a young kid, it's cool to see the high schoolers show up in your classes.
Cardinal McCarrick High School in South Amboy sent a group of students that contained several ambassadors from last year.
Cardinal McCarrick is a Catholic high school, and visited other area Catholic schools to do their presentations to Our Lady of Victories school in Sayreville and Sacred Heart school in South Amboy.
"The kids are really responsive," senior Emely DeJesus, 17 said, of the group's choice to use song to present the information.
Senior Kevin Wiater, 17, said that the grade schoolers were quick to volunteer for group participation, too.
The Cardinal McCarrick group also got creative with their presentations, using balloons to demonstrate brain injury, said senior Sharon Delgado, 17.
They popped the balloons, and timed the kids as they tried to put the balloons back together, an impossible task. That activity was parlayed into explaining irreversible brain injury from failure to wear a helmet.
It aided in helping to explain the word "irreversible" said social studies teacher Mike Gagliardi, to make the younger kids better understand it.
The group from New Brunswick High School said they were interested in putting together a puppet show or a skit for the younger kids in the New Brunswick school system.
Santos said he was thinking of using the analogy of football to show the need for protective gear, in relation to the presentation they will do on the importance of wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle.
Senior Amanda Hernandez, 18, said the topic of helmet safety is not lip service. As a child in Honduras, she did not wear a helmet when riding her bicycle, and took a tumble off the bike, hitting her head. She was not seriously injured, but the experience is applicable to what she and her peers will have to impart to the children.
Several of the New Brunswick students said they were looking forward to working with younger students.
"I like helping little kids," said Leyvis Torres, 18, a senior.