UPPER SADDLE RIVER — The problem with student heroin education, Stephanie Reifman decided at age 13, was that no one was listening.
Five years later, Reifman’s HAPPY Week heroin program for middle and high school students has earned her a $36,000 Helen Diller Foundation Teen Tikkun Olam (“repair the world”) Award, one of only 15 granted nationwide.
Her program now reaches 40 New Jersey and New York public schools and their 15,000 students — on a zero-based budget.
“The biggest programs we had were someone from the county coming into the school to lecture,” Reifman recalls. “The students were intimidated. Nothing existed about kids talking to kids.”
Reifman’s inspiration to become involved sprang from the July 2013 heroin-related death of actor Cory Monteith, who had played the conflicted singing football quarterback Finn Hudson in the Fox series “Glee.”
Reifman says she was shocked to learn that well-heeled Bergen County, where she lived, was not exempt from the drug epidemic, now estimated at 99 drug-related deaths in 2016, the last year for which data is available.
“I wanted to develop something students would pay attention to,” Reifman says.
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