Seniors join fight
Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 16, 1999
By JAINE TREADWELL
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Published Sept. 16, 1999
Two Charles Henderson High School seniors will represent their school and the state of Alabama this weekend at a national youth meeting in Washington, D.C. which will focus on curbing tobacco use among teens.
Amos Brown and Aaron Rasco will be accompanied on the trip by Health Occupation of Students of Alabama advisor Gilda Belcher who recommended them to join representatives from all 50 states in this national effort to reduce tobacco use among teens.
Belcher said Brown and Rasco are outstanding youth leaders who have expressed interest in being involved in anti-tobacco efforts.
"These 100 teens will meet and exchange ideas and attend workshops that will help them develop outreach and organizational skills and charge them with developing the largest student movement against tobacco this nation has ever seen," Belcher said.
In these meetings and at social events during the weekend, the teens will have an outstanding opportunity to help create the plan for a national student summit next summer and construct an anti-tobacco message that will become a national advertising campaign beginning in January 2000, Belcher said.
The goal of the workshop is to develop a youth-led anti-tobacco program that links local, state and national organizations and encourages the participation of all states.
The Washington meeting is being sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation which is prepared to help today’s young people be "a generation that is both seen and heard – a generation united" to turn the fight against tobacco use.
Brown and Rasco both said it is a real honor to have been selected from all of the high school students in the state to attend this meeting.
"Tobacco use among teens is a big concern at Charles Henderson and everywhere," Rasco said. "Now we will have an opportunity to exchange ideas with students from all over the United States as to how we can get the anti-tobacco message across."
"And we’ll have a few ideas of our own to present," Brown said. "Educating young people about the dangers is one way but you can’t just tell them. They’ve got to see what tobacco use does to your body. Pictures really tell the story."
"There’s a chart in my dentist’s office that shows what’s in smokeless tobacco – some of the same things that are in battery acid and nuclear waste," he said. "It blew me away when I saw that and then to think that some people put that stuff in their mouths."
Brown and Rasco see tobacco use as a vicious circle that seems to have no beginning and no end but one that can be broken.
"It’s almost like a chain reaction," Rasco said. "Young kids see older ones smoking and they think it’s cool. They don’t realized that smoking is addictive instead of cool. They start smoking and grow up to influence younger kids. It’s just a circle that keeps on going unless we can convince teens not to ever start."
Brown and Rasco will have opportunities to express their ideas and digest those of students from around the country. The result of the meeting should have a great impact on anti-tobacco efforts this year and in years to come, Belcher said.
"I would like to thank Dr. John Key and the Pike County Board of Education, Hank Jones and the Troy Board of Education, Sherry Key, principal Troy/Pike Regional Center for Technology, Dr. Pat Block, Charles Henderson Child Health Center, Terry Watkins, health education outreach coordinator and Edge Regional Medical Center," Belcher said. "With their support, these students can plan and carry out projects that allow them to use the skills acquired in class."
Belcher teaches healthcare science and technology classes at Troy/Pike Center for Technology. Students from Goshen, Charles Henderson and Pike County high schools are enrolled in these classes.