On Wednesday, April 19, eleven 8th grade students from Clinton Rosette Middle School (CRMS) presented to local DeKalb County businesses to provide an overview of the effects of secondhand smoke, review the Smoke Free Illinois Act (SFIA), and encourage businesses to strengthen their worksite tobacco policies.
The eleven students have been involved in “Reality Illinois,” a statewide tobacco prevention program, for the last two years. By participating in the Reality Illinois program the students had the opportunity to raise awareness and educate others on the harmful effects of tobacco while promoting policy and system change in their community.
Elaine Paoletta and Owen Brown have been participating in the Reality Illinois program, which is facilitated by the DeKalb County Health Department (DCHD) and supported by Clinton Rosette Middle School. Owen Brown said he continued to be involved in Reality Illinois because he “learned about the harmful effects of smoking and how his generation could be the first to quit smoking.” “That’s why I like the program. I can make a difference”, said Brown. Elaine Paoletta said she continues to be a part of the program because she feels she is actually making a difference, even if it’s a small change in her community.
Chessa Kendrick, program facilitator and Health Promotion Specialist at DCHD, has encouraged the CRMS students to be involved with policy and system change in their own community. This year, the 8th grade students focused on businesses strengthening their worksite tobacco policy. “Over the two years of facilitating Reality Illinois I have seen these 8th grade students become passionate about the health of their community and become advocates for policy change related to tobacco. These students have taken the initiative to educate their peers, families, and community members on tobacco and I know after being in Reality Illinois, they will continue to be strong advocates in the future”, says Kendrick.
Tolulope “Tolu” Okunuga, NIU student in the School of Health Studies, has also been working with the Reality Illinois students to help prepare them for their presentation. “The 8th grade students have accomplished so much this semester. They have learned how to advocate about the dangers of smoking tobacco and they are willing to take on the role of speaking up and creating change in their community,” said Okunuga.
For more information about the Smoke Free Illinois Act, please visit: http://www.smoke-free.illinois.gov/
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