On Monday, VOICE, a group of Barker Middle School students from Michigan City celebrated "Kick Butts Day," and challenged their peers to do all they can to eliminate teen smoking and the measures tobacco companies have used for years to market their products to young people. These young leaders are a part of Michigan City Schools’ Safe Harbor program, which provides before and after school programming and is dedicated to promoting and encouraging all aspects of student development. Safe Harbor uses motivation, understanding, and creativity, when offering academic enrichment and recreational activities geared toward academic achievement.
The ten members of VOICE held three separate events taking place during lunch hours so every middle schooler got a chance to participate.
First, in response to a leaked document from a large tobacco corporation detailing how kids and young adults should be their target market to replace dying smokers, each individual student filled in a sign reading "I am not a replacement, I am _______________" with their own message telling people who they are, what they are good at, or what they plan to do as adults.
After that, students were encouraged to sign their name to a graffiti wall board that was made to look like a wall. By signing the wall, these middle schoolers made a pledge that they will not start smoking and will do all they can to bring awareness to the dangers of tobacco.
Last Wednesday, members of VOICE along with several educators cleaned up Barker Middle School campus of all tobacco related products. In the half hour that they were working they gathered quite an amount of cigarette butts, packs and other materials. This garbage was held on to and counted, and students participating today were asked to guess the number of pieces picked up. The student who guessed correctly, or closest, will receive a prize.
Kristi Brosmer, an educator with Barker Middle School, works with Safe Harbor students across Michigan City and was encouraged by the participation and work the kids were excited about doing.
“We understand smoking is so hard to quit and for a very long time, smoking was considered the norm, but we do not believe the tobacco industry should continue to market to young people,” she said. “We came up with this program to say NO to the tobacco industry. Our kids are too important, too great to be a replacement for the smokers who die every year. Our kids feel their voices are instrumental in moving toward less smoking of and around young people.”
Teddy Hansack, an eighth-grader at Barker, was excited and motivated about the work he had been doing. “My goal is to eliminate smoking anywhere near our school!,” he said. “Oh my gosh, how can you stand the smell?!”
Kick Butts Day has been around for twenty years, and it’s events and students like these which assure that high schoolers in Indiana will continue to smoke less than the national average.