GF students, staff raise awareness about dangers of smoking

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

By Kelby Newcomb

It isn’t every day that you get to watch a parade in the high school hallway.

Math teacher Mechelle Belanger said the Green Forest High School Project Prevention Youth Coalition (PPYC) planned the parade as a way to leave a lasting impression while raising awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco and nicotine use among youth and young adults. Accompanied by the drumline, the members of PPYC marched through the hallways of Green Forest High School last Thursday and passed out beads to students.

“This parade was a way for everyone to see how the club is involved in the school,” Belanger said. “It’s exciting and fun. The beads the students are passing out have a 1-800 number on them that [students] can call for free help. Even if it doesn’t help them now, they might remember it later on.”

She said many of the beads also had motivational sayings on them like “Be smart. Don’t start.”

“It’s about getting that number out there,” Belanger said. “The great thing is that students can take it home and give it to their parents.”

She said PPYC also coordinated with Green Forest Middle School recently for the “My Reason to Write” project to educate younger students as well.

Sixth grade English teacher Sherri Glassell said My Reason to Write is designed to educate students in second through eighth about the effects of tobacco and nicotine by having them submit essays or poems on the subject.

“It’s an assignment to basically allow the students to do research on the effects of smoking on their health,” Glassell said. “The topic of this year’s essay was about what their lives are going to look like being nicotine-free.”

She said her sixth-grade students wrote essays describing how they will have more money, get to travel more, be healthier, have nicer teeth and not grow old as quickly by avoiding tobacco and nicotine products.

“They get pretty creative with it. One girl said she would be a kung fu teacher since she wouldn’t get out of breath from smoking,” Glassell said, laughing. “They also found out that when you’re a pack-a-day smoker that it costs like thousands of dollars. Their eyes were really big when they figured that out.”

She said her classes talked about what they could buy with that money instead.

“They talked about getting nicer houses and how they would have the money to pay for college,” she said. “It’s a good opportunity for them to look at the hazards of [smoking], and it’s really important for sixth-graders to understand this because this is the age when they start trying. We’ve already had some getting caught with stuff like that.”

Glassell said they discussed e-cigarettes and vaping as well because those are becoming a huge epidemic among teenagers.

“Before, the students thought that was harmless,” she said, “but then they saw the chemicals that are actually in it. Even the e-cigarettes that aren’t supposed to have nicotine still do, and they’re expensive. That’s something they had never learned, so I’m hoping that will keep them from making that choice, even with the e-cigarettes.”

The winners of the Reason to Write project will be announced soon, Glassell said. She said the first place winner receives a Chromebook, the second place winner receives a Tablet and a $50 gift card to Barnes and Noble and the third place winner receives Beats headphones.

“On the website, we saw last year’s winners and saw there were quite a few from Harrison,” she said. “We’re very competitive and want to be on there, too. This contest makes it authentic for them, and, like the name says, it gives them a reason to write and motivates them.”

Glassell concluded, “They end up being my best essays. Every day, they’re asking ‘Have we found out the winners yet?’ They get really excited. This group is really competitive.”

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