Brigantine Beach

Brigantine school students and others around the state are being encouraged to enter an essay contest to help raise awareness about Alzheimer's disease.

The contest runs now through the end of March and is a joint effort between the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) and Alzheimer's New Jersey. Students are urged to share their thoughts or experiences as they relate to anyone suffering from Alzheimer's, which impacts more than 500,000 New Jersey residents in some way and is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. It is also nation's only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot currently be cured, prevented or slowed.

“Almost everybody knows somebody who's affected by Alzheimer's, whether it's in their immediate family or their neighborhood or their circle of friends,” said Dawn Hiltner, the NJEA's associate director for organizing and coalition building. “We came up with the idea of running an essay contest for middle and high school students to allow them to share their stories, talk about their experiences and help raise awareness of this disease.”

Any student in sixth through 12th grade can participate said Hiltner, a former Brigantine resident and former Galloway Township teacher who has been part of the NJEA's administration team since 2000.

She said that contest entries do not necessarily have to do with raising funds or writing legislators to support the cause, but can be if the students so choose.

“It could just be about spending more time with the person and getting to know them better, or trying to learn something new about them or create some lasting memories while the person afflicted is still with us,” she said. “Maybe it's a grandparent or uncle or neighbor. I know my secretary is dealing with this with her sister, and it can be terrifying because it's something that often runs in families.”

Alzheimer's can be a difficult subject to discuss, as the progressive neurological disease destroys memory and cognitive skills, and robs victims of the ability to carry out simple tasks.

“We basically want to try to break down the stigma, get people talking about it, and help treasure the time we have remaining with those suffering from it,” said Hiltner.

Essays should be no longer than 500 words and should be typed and double spaced. Each essay should describe what the student has done, why they did it, what it meant to them and the impact it has had on others or in their community. If the essay is a school project, the student should include the name of the teacher who assigned it.

The winning essay will earn a student a $500 education scholarship and the runner-up a $100 scholarship. Contest entries will be judged by a panel of Alzheimer's New Jersey (alznj.org) representatives. Entries should be postmarked before March 31 and winners will be notified in mid April. More information can be found by going to the njea.org website and clicking the “Partnerships and Contests” tab.

Send entries to:

Alzheimer's New Jersey, NJEA, c/o Dawn Hiltner, 180 West State Street, PO Box 1211 Trenton, NJ 08607-1211.

Essays can also be emailed to dhiltner@njea.org with “ALZ NJ Essay Contest” in the subject line.

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