Finish strong


Last week I went down to Hamilton Central School to meet up with five-time Utica-Rome Speedway Sportsman track champion Matt Janczuk.

The talented wheelman from Durhamville doesn’t just drive race cars — his day job is as a sergeant with the Hamilton Police Department. Sgt. Janczuk is also the only State Certified Juvenile Officer in Madison County.

Janczuk has teamed up with the Hamilton Area Community Coalition to help Hamilton Central School students to finish the school year strong and positive.

The program is called “Finish Strong – with Sgt. Janczuk,” and includes tips for beating the end of school year stress, staying safe and keeping away from drugs & alcohol. Posters around school feature a unique photo of Janczuk in both of his uniforms, half policeman, and half racing champion. The goal is to help kids build a positive relationship with their police department, and to give them the encouragement they need to finish the school year with excellence.

What are the tips for students?

1. Beat stress with healthy activities.

2. Take a pit stop when you need one.

3. Refuel with healthy snacks.

4. Don’t drink or use drugs.

5. Think like a champion.

6. Pace yourself.

7. Keep your tank full- don’t run on empty

8. Build your pit crew.

“We thought it would be a cool way to bring safety messages to the kids to combine my work as a police sergeant with my passion for racing.” Says Sgt. Janczuk. “Partnering with community organizations such as the Hamilton Coalition is important, and provides a way to give back and reach out to the kids.”

Janczuk brought his race car out in front of the school and took pictures with students. “Winning a championship takes courage and strength,” he shared with students grades 6-12. “What we believe about ourselves determines how we live our lives. I want to encourage all of you to find what drives you and use that passion to help you ‘Finish Strong.’”

I asked Janczuk what his positive thought was before he heads out to a feature race and his greatest thought is “how to steer clear of trouble and get to the front as fast as possible.” Janczuk believes he can win anytime he is on the track- it’s getting there that is the hard part.

Proof in point was last Saturday night at Fulton Speedway when he got drilled and turned around in the third corner. He had to go to the back on the restart and from there Janczuk was a rocket ship. He didn’t win but he finished in a solid seventh place and with a few more laps probably would’ve had something for the leaders.

“You always have to believe you can win,” stated Janczuk.

Students from HCS SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) also issued a challenge and encouraged their peers to build their own “Pit Crew” by finding positive people who would encourage them to do their best through the rest of the school year. “When we surround ourselves with people who will inspire and motivate us we are more likely to find happiness and success.” 

Also, as part of the campaign, tire-shaped stress balls will be handed out before state testing, reminding students taking their Regents to “Think Like A Champion.”

The Hamilton community has rallied behind the project with support from HCS Middle & High School Principal, Bill Dowsland, Hamilton’s Police Chief, Shawn Stassi, and Mayor Ruthann Loveless. Vantine Images spearheaded Sgt. Janczuk’s photo shoot and donated printing, and Hamilton’s Department of Public Works brought their newest traffic cones to help decorate the school. 

“The work the coalition and Melissa has done is a tremendous asset to the school and the well being of our students,” stated Dowsland. “This program with Sgt. Janczuk is a perfect community activity for our students to finish strong. Sgt. Janczuk is in the school throughout the year and his work is extremely important to our students well being.”

“This project has illustrated once again Hamilton’s strong community spirit,” says Melissa Cassulis, program coordinator of the Hamilton Coalition. “The HACC is proud to partner with Matt Janczuk Racing to bring these safety messages to the kids in a fresh and fun way. Sgt. Janczuk’s eagerness to invest in the lives of our young people goes above and beyond his job description. It’s this type of community support which builds that safe & healthy environment in which our children can thrive.”

See you at the races.


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