Vermont Kids against Tobacco from Twin Valley Middle School (left to right): Hailey Howe, Samantha Morse, Alee Crosier, Hayden Reed, Alexis Betit, Caitlin
Vermont Kids against Tobacco from Twin Valley Middle School (left to right): Hailey Howe, Samantha Morse, Alee Crosier, Hayden Reed, Alexis Betit, Caitlin Hunt, Brett Swanson, Jessica Reilly and Logan Park (missing: Tucker Boyd, Joy Kondracki). (submitted photo)
Tuesday March 19, 2013

WHITINGHAM -- Kick Butts Out Day is held on March 20 and the Twin Valley Middle School students have been preparing to do just that.

Some of the students attended a dance to empower kids to speak up against tobacco and second-hand smoke.

"It was a dance to basically promote no smoking for young children and even older," said eighth-grader Samantha Morse. "It was something fun for all the kids to get involved in and get in the know."

On March 15, the Twin Valley Middle School students hosted a Kick Butts dance to promote Kick Butts Day, which is "an annual celebration of youth leadership and activism in the fight against tobacco use, when youth across the country encourage their peers to stay tobacco-free and educate the communities about the dangers of tobacco," a release for the event stated.

Students from Readsboro and Halifax also came out for the event.

"It was especially fun going in front of everyone and asking questions to see who actually knew anything about cigarettes and how it hurts people," said Twin Valley Middle School eighth-grader Alexa Betit.

Each year, the Deerfield Valley Community Partnership writes a grant for the Vermont Department of Health to fund the Vermont Kids Against Tobacco, a program aimed to prevent or reduce tobacco use among middle school students.

Students form VKAT groups once they enter the middle school.

"The kids do all sorts of activities throughout the year," said Cindy Hayford, a coordinator at the Deerfield Valley Community Partnership.


Advertisement

"Their main focus is on tobacco and second-hand smoke, but they also do other activities based around kids being safe and healthy."

"I joined because my parents smoke and it's hurting them," said Betit. "I want them to know how it's hurting them and get to know more about it to let them know."

Betit was not alone in her quest to inform others about the dangers of smoking.

"A lot of the kids experience second-hand smoke," said Hayford. "They came up with a slogan, ‘Be the boss or pay the cost.' It empowers kids to be the boss about their own health and not let people smoke around them."

The campaign is meant to inspire children to speak up, respectfully, when a parent or adult is about to light up a cigarette in their presence.

"I have friends and family who smoke and it's not only hurting them but it's also hurting me," said Twin Valley Middle School eighth-grader Jessica Reilly. "And I'd hate to lose any of them. A lot of people don't know what it's doing to their bodies. It's really hurting them internally."

Participants in the campaign have designed T-shirts around the campaign.

Carrie Blake who is the advisor of the VCAT program at Twin Valley Middle School told the Reformer that this year, the kids have also directed their own video, which includes their very own rap song.

Morse said there was a group meeting then its members formed sub-groups. They wrote scripts then came back together. Parts for the video were assigned and VCAT contacted the Student Network at the Twin Valley High School to set up a time to film it.

"It was a big, fun thing we did," said Morse. "It was probably the most fun thing we've done."

Reilly said the rap was difficult to write, but it all came together.

The Deerfield Valley Community Partnership has had this grant from the Vermont Department of Health since the early 1990s, Hayford said.

She also pointed out that when the kids come up the ideas themselves, it is much more effective.

"I plan to join Our Voices Xposed (OVX), when I get to high school," said Betit. "It's like VCAT but at the high school. It's a bigger group. I also plan to let my parents know how it's hurting them and other people who are smoking."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.