Southern Ocean Medical Center Partners with Local Schools to Dramatically Educate and Inform Students of the Dangers of Substance Abuse

Project Aware is a one-of-a-kind educational experience focused on informing sixth graders about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse  

Manahawkin, NJ – Hackensack Meridian Health Southern Ocean Medical Center and Stafford Intermediate School partnered along with local police department L.E.A.D officers (formerly D.A.R.E) and local anti-abuse leaders to present Project Aware, a dramatic presentation that informs and educates sixth -graders about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Through realistic, dramatic presentations of real-life details that connect with students’ lives and experiences, students learn the consequences of making bad choices and discover that they have the power to make smart decisions. The one-of-a-kind theatrical program began at the Stafford Theater Arts Center in Manahawkin and continued at the medical center’s Emergency Department. The event concluded with a debriefing session in the Beach Plum Conference Room at Southern Ocean Medical Center.

“Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious concern in our communities and Ocean and Monmouth counties are among the hardest hit for substance abuse in the state,” says Dean Q. Lin, MHA, MBA, FACHE, FCPP, regional president of Hackensack Meridian Health. “Project Aware is an impactful way to demonstrate how to make the ’right’ choice and aims to reduce the incidence of overdoses and deaths in Ocean county.”

“It takes a community to educate students on the dangers of substance abuse and am delighted that Hackensack Meridian HealthSouthern Ocean Medical Center is a proud supporter of Project Aware,” says Kenneth Rodenbaugh, RN, CARN, CEN, project coordinator. “By expanding to additional schools throughout Ocean and Monmouth counties, we will collectively make a difference in the lives of thousands of children.”

During the week of April 23, nearly 500 students experienced the impactful one-of-a-kind experience that has influenced the lives of thousands of students in our community over the past 19 years. The goal of Hackensack Meridian Health and Project Aware is to further expand the program in Ocean and Monmouth counties. This year, Project Aware has expanded to Little Egg Harbor School District and Pinelands Regional Junior High School. For more information on Project Aware, please email Ken Rodenbaugh at