Atlantic Cape Student Named First Community College HERO

Manny Rodriguez of Mays Landing was named the first community college HERO for the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers March 29.

Rodriguez, 24, was nominated by a fellow Atlantic Cape Community College student for his selfless efforts to remain sober and ensure his friends arrive home safely when he is present.

Rodriguez received the honor during a ceremony at Atlantic Cape Community College from Bill and Muriel Elliott, whose son, John R. Elliott, was killed by a drunk driver in 2000.

“You can have a good time and still be safe,” Elliott said. “Those messages are not incompatible. Our dream is nobody else gets that knock on the door.”

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Student Michelle Figueroa, left, nominated student Manny Rodriguez, center, to be named the first Atlantic Cape Community College HERO. Muriel and Bill Elliott, founders of the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers, announced Rodriguez as the newest HERO during a ceremony March 29 at the college.

In 2000, John R. Elliott, a graduate of the Naval Academy, was struck and killed by a drunken driver on his way home for his mother’s birthday. The driver had been arrested on DUI charges and released only to get back in the car drunk, killing himself and John.

Rodriguez said he was proud to be selected as a HERO Campaign leader. “I was surprised. I just am doing what I usually do and wasn’t looking for recognition.”

State and local officials, however, sent proclamations and were on hand to commend Rodriguez for his character, including Sen. Jim Whelan, Assemblyman Chris Brown, Atlantic County Freeholder Alex Marino and Hamilton Township Mayor Roger Silva.

The HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers seeks to end drunk driving tragedies nationwide by promoting the use of safe and sober designated drivers. The campaign has set a goal to register one million designated drivers and make having a designated driver be as automatic as wearing a seat belt. Register online at herocampaign.org.

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