Kids don’t smoke. Well, that is not exactly true. Some do, but not nearly as many as you might think. The same is true about drinking or using marijuana. The common perception by kids and adults is that most kids are involved in risky behavior, but a study conducted by CYC (Lake Placid-Wilmington Connecting Youth and Community) last fall revealed that the majority of Lake Placid middle and high school students act responsibly.
Knowing that peer pressure is a strong motivator of people’s actions, the CYC leadership, a coalition of individuals and agencies committed to improving the health and well being of local youth, decided to develop a multimedia campaign that would tap into the talents of kids to communicate the message that smoking, drinking and using marijuana was not an activity supported by most kids.
As the CYC arts coordinator, I got together with LPCS art teachers Ann Rickard and Sandy Huber to brainstorm ideas that would build on last year’s successful I Matter posters, and the Make Time for Kids banners hung along Main Street. This time we decided to ask Middle School students to create self-portraits based on a simple figure drawing, and to ask Huber’s computer graphics kids to create posters that will illustrate four survey results; 7 out of 10 Lake Placid students do not smoke cigarettes, 7 out of 10 try to do their best work in school, 6 out of 10 do not drink alcohol, and 6 out of 10 have never used marijuana.
On Tuesday morning the three-dozen kids who worked on the project were each given a copy of the poster that they either helped design or create an artistic self-portrait that was used in the design. Shipman and Wilmington Youth Centers students and coordinators will distribute the remaining 300 posters throughout Lake Placid and Wilmington over the coming weeks.
“Creating the posters was pretty cool,” said Austin Preston. “I learned a lot. I didn’t realize that 7 out of 10 kids didn’t smoke cigarettes. It was fun to use the images created by others as part of the design, especially images created by the younger kids.”
“I felt that it was pretty good to be able to help the community by showing them that the bad perception of kids is wrong, that quite the opposite is true,” said classmate Will Tennant. “It is not every day that I can help make a difference in the community. I was glad to be able help in this way.”
“I thought that the project was a good idea,” said Dylan Smith. “It will help raise awareness and it is going to get a lot of people community involved in talking about the issues.”
“When we conducted the survey and talked to the kids, the message we got was that the perception was everyone was drinking, into drugs and smoking, but the results showed that perception was very different,” said CYC president Mary Dietrich. “The goal of this project is to help close the gap between perception and reality. At the same time there is a negative perception of kids by many adults. We want to get out the message that most kids make positive decisions. We also believe the message is much more powerful when it comes from the kids.”
“This is just one phase of a multi-media effort that will also include PSAs being created by the LPHS Digital World class that will be aired on WPTZ and Time-Warner cable,” said CYC coordinator Angel Marvin. “What is great about using that arts is that they can cover so many bases. A colorful poster is much easier to read than two pages of statistics and it engages the talents of our kids.”
“People are so bombarded with fear tactics and the negative,” said Dietrich. “We wanted to stress the positive.”
“I like the school community connection aspect,” said Principal Katherine Mulderig. It gives the community a sense that the school belongs to the community and vice versa. We want to do more projects like this. It also shows that we believe that the arts, combined with academics, are an important part of a well-rounded education.”
“This project provided a way for the students to see how the arts can convey things such as statistics in a visual and compelling way,” said art teacher Ann Rickard. “I feel that it gives the students a sense of ownership through involving them in the study and then communicating the results through using their artistic talents.”
“It was a good learning experience because they had a real client who requested a very specific product. It wasn’t a classroom assignment, they were creating posters that would be displayed around town,” said computer graphics teacher Sandy Huber. “It worked well because it combined the drawings created by Mrs. Rickard’s class with design and computer skills of my students. I think the message really got to some of them. It helped many kids understand that there are a lot of other kids making good decisions.”
The posters also illustrate that while most kids do not engage in risky behavior, far too many still do. Hopefully this campaign will encourage more kids to join with majority who decide not to smoke, not to use drugs, and not to drink alcohol. Anyone who wishes to get a free poster to display in their office or business should email Angel Marvin at: firstname.lastname@example.org.