DeKALB – Macy Stach, a seventh-grader at Clinton Rosette Middle School, was one of the 26 students Monday at Hopkins Park picking up almost 1,700 cigarette butts and other related litter as part of National Kick Butts Day to discourage tobacco use.
“I think it’s not only a good cause, but it’s a good experience to go outside, pick up these butts and and be more intertwined with the community,” Macy said. “I have family members that used to smoke. My dad eventually quit, so hopefully I can keep others from smoking.”
National Kick Butts Day was Wednesday, but because of snowfall, the cleanup effort was rescheduled to Monday.
Students who took part in the cleanup are part of “Reality Illinois,” a grant-funded program coordinated by the DeKalb County Health Department to involve youth with local government to promote tobacco-related policies.
Health department promotions coordinator Melissa Edwards said the program started at the high school level, but because of a lack of interest, attention shifted to middle-schoolers.
“We wanted to start at middle school to gain their interest early on,” Edwards said. “Kids are fascinated and they always find a lot, which unfortunately shows that a lot of people are smoking.”
Eighth-grader Jakyla Rogers said she has a family member who still smokes despite a doctor advising them that the next cigarette they smoke could be fatal, which is one of the reasons she has volunteered for the past two years and is against smoking.
In roughly an hour, students scooped up 1,686 cigarette butts, in addition to wrappers and other litter. Last year, volunteers collected a few hundred cigarette butts around Clinton Rosette school grounds, Edwards said.
Using this information, seventh-grade students will make a presentation to the park district and eighth-grade students will make a presentation to local businesses later in the spring to advocate for 100 percent smoke-free areas in the community.
“The students learn how tobacco affects the environment and those around them and how to have a positive impact by cleaning up cigarette litter,” health promotions specialist Chessa Kendrick, who facilitates the Reality Illinois program, said in a statement.
“I am very proud at how far they have come and am energized by the excitement they have to help better their community. The students have the motivation to help others learn about tobacco and lead a healthier lifestyle.”