On June 22, 2020 PiC took it’s show on the road to deliver the 2020 Community Champion and Michael BonTempo awards. Due to Covid19 restrictions, it was going to be necessary to hold the monthly meeting and award ceremony online. Coordinators Kelley Edwards and Shelby Mehmet decided to broadcast the meeting from their vehicles, as they drove around Clinton delivering the awards.

The first stop surprised Morgan Junior and REACT Junior President Bianca Arias at home. Bianca was awarded the first Community Champion plaque, given annually to a PiC member that has gone above and beyond in prevention efforts. Bianca has dedicated numerous hours to REACT and PiC, representing Clinton on the CT Governor’s Prevention Partnership, mentoring Eliot REACT members, designing messaging campaigns on drug and alcohol use and suicide prevention, presenting student use data to the Clinton Town Council and attending the CADCA conference in Washington, DC. In DC Bianca spoke to our senators and representatives about vaping and other youth substance use issues.

Bianca wins the Community Champion award while her mom Faith and Shelby celebrate with her!

The second award was delivered to Morgan Senior and REACT VicePresident, Jenna Kareliussen. As Jenna excitedly ran from her home onto the lawn, Shelby and Kelley handed her another Community Champion plaque. Jenna’s contributions to Eliot and Morgan REACT, messaging campaigns, the Clinton Board of Education and media development have been superior throughout the past year.

Jenna and her dad Robert celebrate her Community Champion award

It took a few minutes and some loss of internet connection to arrive at the house of Sarah Auletta, who was awarded the Michael BonTempo Volunteer of the Year Award. Sarah has served as REACT President throughout her senior year at Morgan. Here is the content of her nomination:

Nomination written by Andrea Reu and details added by Kelley Edwards:

I have known Sarah for over ten years.  I have watched her grow up and consider her drive and perseverance more than admirable qualities.  Her genuine passion and compassion for her fellow man, the youth in this community as well as the world at large is overwhelming and undaunting.  She is what we refer to as a doer, one who rolls up her sleeves, takes a leadership role, and gets the job done, long after many others continue to just talk about it.  

Sarah’s contribution to the coalition and the prevention of substance abuse: 

  • Joined the world of prevention as an Eliot student, winning the first ever billboard contest in her health class for her billboard warning about the dangers of RX use
  • LEAD conference attendee and then planned the conference 3 years in a row, teaching workshops to her peers
  • CADCA attendee- speaking with Sen Joe Courtney and the aides for Murphy & Blumenthal in Washington DC
  • CADCA presenter- presented a banner about youth leadership and prevention in Washington DC
  • Y2Y multiple year attendee
  • Assisted with CADCA’s “Got Outcomes” award entry; for which we were one of 4 national finalists
  • Created and implemented the prevention workshop “How to Include Youth in Prevention Programming” which was taught to 30+ prevention professionals
  • Won the Community Champion award in 2018
  • Peer Assistant to Eliot REACTs
    • 2 x month developed lesson plans in person and online for younger REACT members
  • QPR certified
  • Haunted Hallways hall leader 2018 & 2019
  • Created and implemented suicide prevention and mental health awareness campaigns

But mostly what I think about when I immediately thought to nominate Sarah, is Mike himself.  I knew him well and his passion and character as he grew with the coalition.  His traits are Sarah’s traits.  Mike and Sarah are both unconventional in how they approach talking about the work.  They think outside the box and are fearless in their pursuit of sharing what they know, especially about health and well-being, but also of genuinely being there for those who need help without judgement.  I miss Mike and all he gave our community, there will never be another like him.  Sarah is more reserved in her personality, but equals Mike in her commitment and passion.  Both she and Mike gave years of time to the youth of Clinton, and I think Sarah is undoubtedly deserving of the Michael BonTempo award.

Sarah and her parents, Mark and Shelby, happily accept the Michael BonTempo Volunteer of the Year Award.

It was a novel and unique meeting experience! It was a lot of fun to surprise each awardee in their yard and to celebrate their accomplishments with their family members looking on. Even if Covid is gone in 2021, we may keep this fun format! Congratulations to all!