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The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCNJ)’s educational program to help people under the age of 25 avoid problem gambling, bullying, and substance abuse has graduated 73 at-risk youth from schools in West Orange and Trenton.

Recently, CCGNJ and Seton Hall University surveyed young people between 16 and 25 years old and found that nearly 79% of those who gamble began betting before they turned 21. Adolescents also develop problem-gambling at a higher rate (6% – 8%) than adults (1% – 2%), CCGNJ said.

CCGNJ’s Cognitive Perspective Restructuring program (CPR) helps instill confidence and self-regulation to help teenagers avoid self-destructive and addictive behavior. Students also learn to identify and pursue their passions, and instructors guide them in developing a life plan and setting goals.

The program is offered at no cost to schools. A cohort of 43 students from West Orange High School and 30 students from the Sprout University School of the Arts, a private performing arts school in Trenton, completed the program in mid-June.

The program is also designed to help parents, educators and community stakeholders cultivate self-awareness in adolescents and identify risk factors that can contribute to youths falling into addictive or other self-destructive behavior. Because of the essential role parents and guardians have in a child’s life, their involvement is required in order for students to participate in the program.

During the summer, the program will be presented to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Trenton in 10 sessions of 90-minutes each. Other school districts throughout New Jersey have also expressed interest in having their students participate in the free program in the future.  CCGNJ’s “Train the Trainer” efforts are underway to expand the reach of the program to more schools and students.

Sprout University Headmaster Danielle Miller-Winrow lauded the CPR program for the benefits it delivered to her students.

“The Council on Compulsive Gambling (of New Jersey’s) program has been a standard of excellence and has had a significant impact on the lives of my students by supplying them with educational resources and comprehensive preventative measures … I consider the CPR program an invaluable resource because of its commitment to quality, originality, and involvement within the community,” she said.

Sakiyyah Darden, whose daughter, Aniiya, graduated from the program at Sprout, said the classes provided her child with a safe space to explore her emotions, express herself and learn important life lessons.

“She learned a great deal about accountability and has a better understanding that her actions can have real consequences,” Darden said.

Legislation pending the State Assembly, A-5308, sponsored by Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28), would require school districts to provide instruction on risks of compulsive gambling as part of implementation of New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education. The bill has been referred to the Assembly Education Committee for further consideration.

To learn more about the CPR program, contact CCGNJ Prevention and Treatment Administrator Luis Del Orbe at 973-336-7075 or luis@800gambler.org.


PHOTO: Luis Del Orbe of the Council of Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, who developed the Cognitive Perspective Restructuring curriculum for at-risk youth, (front left), with students from the Sprout University School of the Arts in Trenton. – Photo courtesy of the CCGNJ.