A school project started in Mrs. Darleen Philpotts seventh grade health class has changed the Town of Paris in a positive way.
A group of Sauquoit Valley Middle School students convinced their Town Board to make their parks tobacco free.
The eight students involved with the tobacco-free project have made not only one, but three town parks tobacco free.
"We don't think that the parks should have tobacco in it because there are so many sporting events there," said participant Steven Philpotts.
Caution. "Lungs at Play," reads multiple signs in the Town Paris Park. Enforced earlier this year, students at the Sauquoit Valley Middle School wrote letters trying to convince the Town of Paris to make its parks tobacco free.
It all started in Mrs. Philpotts' health class when her then-seventh grade students were going through the tobacco unit.
"We learned about how tobacco is bad for your lungs," explained Steven Philpotts.
"You can get so many cancers. Lung cancer, throat cancer, mouth cancer...It was disgusting. She showed us pictures," said student Ali Marino.
Mrs. Philpotts also learned the parks were not tobacco free.
"They didn't have one written. So, when we found that out that was a great health project not only to teach them about facts about tobacco, but also teach them about advocacy and standing up for something they believe in," said Mrs. Philpotts.
After perfecting letters, students went to a town meeting to convince the Town of Paris Board. And the best part?
"Acutally going to the town meeting and making the speech and then having them to approve it," said Marino.
With the help of BRiDGES, an area tobacco free advocacy program, the Town received the free signs reminding the community that their parks are tobacco-free.
"I think it makes me feel good knowing we are helping the community to be smoke free and now we can go to the park and see the signs and say 'hey,I did that," explained Marino.
Mrs. Philpotts says she hopes her students have set a good example for their peers.
"By learning advocacy they learned to stand up for what they believe in... And they can encourage other students to do that with their town parks in other areas also," said Mrs. Philpotts.