Collegians to use skits, presentations to reach area seventh-graders.
Twelve Buena Vista University students will look to tattoo the message of the dangers of smoking into the mindset of county middle school students through a unique interactive program beginning next week, and the students and adult sponsors of the venture said they are looking forward to spreading the news about staying away from tobacco products to area pupils.
Students involved in the TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use) endeavor have prepared 30-minute presentations about the risks and costs involved with tobacco use, and will perform the skits for and deliver the anti-tobacco message to seventh-grade pupils enrolled in the Storm Lake, Storm Lake St. Mary's, Alta, Aurelia, Albert City-Truesdale and Newell-Fonda school districts.
Organized by the Buena Vista County Tobacco Prevention Partnership Coordinator Bonnie Conley, the first presentation for TATU will be next Thursday, and Conley said she was excited to see the college students participate in the program and become positive role models by taking time out of their days to help educate the middle school pupils.
"I think it's a great way to make an impact on the younger students, and the college students have been very focused and dedicated," Conley said. "It's been fun to be involved in this and see how they are going to help spread that message in a positive way over the next few weeks."
"I think the students have learned a lot already, and are going to help spread that message to students pretty effectively," BVU Coordinator Tami Laursen, RN, BSN, said. "It's going to be a win-win situation for everyone involved."
Several of the BVU students said they joined the TATU program because of personal experiences with the effects of tobacco.
Amy Lienhard, a senior from Cresco, said she became involved in the TATU project last year after seeing her grandfather pass away from lung cancer as a result of years of smoking.
"When I did it last year I could really see the impact that we had on the kids," Lienhard said. "It was great to see. We made it enjoyable for them with the skits, but we had a really serious message with it, and I think the kids were able to grasp that.
"It felt good to have a positive impact on them, and part of that was from things that we did in tandem with the skits, like the Smoking Susie doll," Lienhard continued. "That showed how much tar actually goes into the lungs from each cigarette, and the kids were really surprised. That made an impression."
Freshman Rachel Bussan also said she decided to join because of the health of her grandfather. Bussan said he lost his teeth and developed emphysema because of smoking, a habit which he has now quit.
"I really wanted to do something, and this seemed like a good group to join and be a part of," Bussan said. "I don't want others to go through what my grandpa has gone through."
The 12 Buena Vista students, Residence Hall Director Michelle Harvey, Laursen and Conley will perform their presentations to the different schools throughout the month of March, and will also provide the students with Teens Against Tobacco Usage t-shirts.