If Smyrna Park looks a little bit cleaner, it’s owing to the fact that 104 eighth-graders attending Blaker Kinser Junior High School belonging to PHASTjv spent a recent Saturday collecting almost 4,000 pieces of tobacco litter.
This coming from a park designated as “tobacco free.”
PHAST (pronounced FAST) stands for Protecting Health And Slamming Tobacco. It is a youth coalition which organizes peer education and advocacy projects in schools and communities across Stanislaus County. PHAST is a joint project between the Stanislaus County Office of Education TUPE Program, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency Tobacco Education Program, & Memorial Medical Center. Founded in 2005 with chapters at Ceres, Oakdale, Orestimba and Pitman high schools. Today, the coalition boosts more than 900 student members from 27 high schools.
The students rounded up the garbage in 90 minutes on Saturday, Oct. 6.
“We remove them not only because the litter is ugly and careless, but because it distributes harmful toxins into our environment as well,” said BK health teacher Robin Johnson who is the advisor for PHASTjv. “They do not receive a grade, nor extra credit. They simply gave up their Saturday morning to make a difference.”
She said the school’s PHASTjv team is bigger than ever.
“We have 185 Blaker Kinser students in PHASTjv. These students will be peer educators and positive role models on campus this school year.”
Others helping in the Smyrna Park clean up were staff members and Principal Danielle Cox.
“We look forward to future anti-tobacco campaigns and activities throughout our school year,” said Johnson. “In the end, my biggest hope is that these students and more will be educated and inspired to make healthy and wise choices and to remain tobacco and nicotine free for their rest of their lives.”