EmPoWERing Schools

Empower serves schools

EmPoWER Somerset equips schools across Central New Jersey with tools and resources that assist them in creating an environment that fosters success in learning and in life. We employ a variety of methods to EmPoWER schools including, grant funding opportunities, multi-week program facilitation, youth group administration, classroom presentations, and technical assistance.


Botvin Life Skills

Botvin Life Skills is an evidence-based curriculum facilitated with elementary and middle school students that teaches substance misuse and violence prevention through comprehensive, dynamic, and developmentally appropriate lessons. This highly effective curriculum has been proven to help increase self-esteem, develop healthy attitudes, and improve their knowledge of essential life skills – all of which promote healthy and positive personal development and mental health. In addition to helping kids resist drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, the middle school program also effectively supports the reduction of violence and other high-risk behaviors. The program is aligned to Social-Emotional Learning standards.

For more information on this program, please contact Cheryl Rinaldi


Coordinated School Health

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The School Health program is a statewide initiative for incorporating health into all aspects of the school community with a goal of enhancing academic and life success for our youth. EmPoWER Somerset is the managing agency for the School Health program in Central New Jersey, covering Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Mercer, Union, Monmouth, and Ocean counties. The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model is the driving force behind our approach to school health in New Jersey. The WSCC model emphasizes that each child, in each school, in each of our communities deserves to be healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. EmPoWER Somerset fosters positive, healthy school environments through a variety of programs and strategies, including, parent engagement, youth involvement, grant funding, and technical assistance.

Please visit the School Health NJ website to learn more about the work being done across the state.

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Footprints for Life™

Footprints for Life™ is designed to help second and third grade students build a strong foundation of life skills rooted in key social competencies. The curriculum-based program focuses on planning and decision-making, cultural competence, and interpersonal skills, such as handling peer pressure and resolving conflicts peacefully. Information on tobacco and alcohol is provided within the context of refusal skills, as are discussions about seeking help from caring and supportive adults when confronted with situations that make the child feel inadequate or fearful. The program is delivered over six one-hour sessions.

For more information on this program, please contact Cheryl Rinaldi.


SBIRT Training

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is a comprehensive, integrated, public health approach to the delivery of early intervention and treatment services for persons with substance use disorders, as well as those who are at risk of developing these disorders. There are a set of screening tools used to identify the youth who may be at risk of substance abuse. EmPoWER Somerset provides SBIRT trainings that can be offered in person, virtually live or as a recording. Through these trainings you will learn how to screen a youth using one of the screening tools, how to implement a brief intervention, and when it is needed to refer a youth for further treatment. For more information, please contact Jennifer Gomez.

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Sobertruth4youth.org was created to enhance access to a series of short documentaries on substance abuse prevention developed by the Safe Communities Coalition. The videos were compiled into an educational portal. Each video is paired with a quiz and a certificate of completion with a unique user code is generated once the quiz questions are completed 100% correctly. The website includes the following videos:

  • His, Hers, the Truth: Marijuana’s Overlooked Consequences
  • Pills 2 Heroin
  • In A Split Second
  • Fentanyl Factor
  • Don’t Be A Friend, Be A Parent*

*All videos were created by the coalition except “Don’t Be A Friend, Be A Parent.”

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Happy Healthy Me

Happy Healthy Me, based on the evidence-based Dare To Be You curriculum, is a program for preschool and kindergarten age children designed to enhance self-esteem, communication, and problem-solving skills. It is delivered over six 45-minute sessions in a classroom setting.

For more information on this program, please contact Cheryl Rinaldi.


We're Not Buying It 2.0

We’re Not Buying It 2.0 (WNBI 2.0) is designed to reduce early first use of alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications, as well as the initiation of bullying/cyber-bullying among middle school age youth in grades 6 through 8. The program recognizes that the media is a significant source of misinformation for young people about these topics. Unlike traditional media literacy programs, which focus on print advertisements, WNBI 2.0 explores the indirect marketing messages directed at youth through music, television, film, and social media. With a proper understanding of the marketing directed toward them, students learn how to think critically about those messages and make decisions based on facts. The program is delivered over six one-hour sessions.

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Youth Mental Health Fist Aid

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Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) is designed for adults who regularly interact with young people including parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens.  The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, ADHD, eating disorders, and others. Participants learn how to recognize and assist an adolescent experiencing a mental health challenge or crisis. This course is for everyone, and is especially helpful for adults who have regular contact with youth but who do not necessarily have a mental health background. YMHFA is offered in both English and Spanish. We also offer Mental Health First Aid which teaches adults how to recognize warning signs and assist other adults who are in need of help. Specialized modules of this program focusing on assisting veterans and adults in higher education settings are also available

For more information please contact Kim Petro-Orlik.

For a Schedule of MHFA Classes