March 7, 2007
Teens Take on Tobacco in Jefferson City
St. Louis Schools bring home awards
St. Louis March 11, 2007 - Students from Jennings and St. Louis were honored in Jefferson City for their outstanding performance in this year's Project Citizen Showcase. Project Citizen teaches young people about the importance of being informed and active citizens. The project encourages youths to develop and advocate public policies designed to improve their communities.
The students from Jennings High School won The Best Hearing Award, for their presentation of "Stop the Loose, Stop the Use," a policy designed to enforce existing laws restricting the sale of loose cigarettes. After investigating the frequence of loose cigarettes in Jennings, the students decided to propose a media campaign to reaise awareness about the issue, and presented a plan to increase the fines for violating the ordinance. Billy Rucker, a youth coordinator at Jennings said he "had no idea about the prevalence of loose cigarette sales in Jennings" and had learned that this practice actually encourages young kids to begin smoking.
Support-a-Child International, a local non-profit, organized a group of students from around the city of St. Louis who brough home the award for Best Middle School Hearing for their "Kids Are Not A Target For Your Market" presentation. This project advocates a ban on tobacco advertising within the city limits. An ordinance currently exists banning this form of advertising within 2000 feet of any place frequented by children. The students mapped their community and came to the conclusion that if the present ordinance were enforced, it would constitute a total ban. Vincent McKinney, Director of Project Change noted that "Project Citizen showed our kids that they can make a difference, and they do have a voice."
These projects are supported by the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Youth Empowerment in Action, Tobacco Education and Media (YEA! TEAM) program. This program trains teachers to use media literacy skills to empower children to make informed decisions and healthy choices. YEA! TEAM is part of the Center for Character and Citizenship in the College of Education at the University of Missouri.
Funding for this project was provided in part by the Missouri Foundation for Health. The Missouri Foundation for Health is a philanthropic organization whose vision is to improve the health of the people in the communities it serves.