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Senior Class Participates in Workshop Mixing Laughter With Science to Prepare for Life Beyond Rutgers Prep

As their high school careers draw to an end, the Rutgers Prep Senior Class gathered in Daniel Hall recently for a workshop that mixed laughter with science to deliver a strong message: intentionally pursuing a healthy lifestyle can make you feel better and happier than any drug.

The messenger was guest speaker Dr. Matt Bellace, a multi-faceted individual holding a Ph.D. in clinical psychology while also performing stand-up comedy. Since high school, Dr. Bellace has been involved in youth drug and alcohol prevention and mental health awareness efforts. This year's presentation marked the 14th year Dr. Bellace has spoken to RPS students. His background in studying emotional memory and performing stand-up comedy informs his speaking style. “I know if the audience is laughing, they’re listening. If they’re engaged, they’re learning,” he writes on his website.

Bellace’s conversation — part of the Beyond Rutgers Preparatory School counseling program for seniors, featured stories from his teenage years, audience participation in funny stunts, and research illustrating the mental toxicity of substance abuse and, conversely, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle for the brain. His program highlighted the importance of being active, learning new things, connecting with others, taking notice, and being fully present. 

One key piece of his advice: Alcohol and drugs serve to fill a void when you don't feel good about yourself, so stick close to friends who find the good in you that you can lean on. According to Bellace, "The number one predictor of behavior, especially at this time of your lives, is the friends you surround yourself with, so choose wisely."