High-schoolers reach out to schools with anti-smoking message
A group of teens soon will take on the responsibility of teaching Rolling Meadows elementary and middle school students an important life lesson.
In a revival of an initiative that has languished for about two years, teens trained through Teens against Tobacco Use will teach Rolling Meadows students in fourth through sixth grades this fall about the dangers of smoking.
Rolling Meadows' Tobacco Information Prevention Program committee, known as TIPP, has prepared to send honors students from Rolling Meadows High School into classrooms at eight schools, said Dr. Arvind Goyal, chairman of the TIPP committee.
The high school students will use their youth and creativity to send a an anti-smoking message in a way the average adult can't.
"The key is, if I were to go into the classroom and make the presentation, there is a significant difference in age and there is at least a 11/2-year generation gap," Goyal said. "So I have to work harder at convincing fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders that smoking is bad for them."
High school students who trained over the summer with a representative of the American Lung Association learned to incorporate sing-alongs and ball games to teach anti-smoking messages.
They learned about what tobacco does to the body, the politics involved in the tobacco industry and the marketing techniques of tobacco companies.
"I have a little brother who's in junior high, and I think they look up to you more because you're not that much older than them," said Jim Menard, an RMHS senior who went through the training. "We actually learned in the training that this (later elementary) age is the age they start, so you want to get them right before they have those influences so they know what to do."
Eight public and private elementary and middle schools in Rolling Meadows are slated to have the teens in classrooms making presentations before the winter holidays. Schools include Carl Sandburg and Plum Grove junior highs and Kimball Hill, Central Road and Willow Bend elementary schools.
The city's tobacco prevention committee previously trained youths for Teens Against Tobacco Use in cooperation with the Rolling Meadows Girl Scouts and The Bridge Youth and Family Services in Palatine. However, after the teen participants made presentations at Scout camps and in their own Palatine communities, TATU never made a full-scale push into Rolling Meadows schools.
Last year, new life came to the anti-smoking effort through a partnership between the city's tobacco prevention committee and the Rolling Meadows High School National Honor Society.
"From our point of view, we like our kids to be involved in service, and this is just one aspect of that," said Robert Shea, an RMHS teacher and the honor society adviser.
"I don't think that any of them are involved in smoking, but I hope they can help the younger kids - because this is aimed at the elementary and junior highs - to see them as role models and mentors."