Professional BMX, skateboard, inline skating athletes inspire anti-smoking message
Bonner Springs High School junior Robert Jones says he’s experimented with the occasional cigarette.
But after a visit from the ASA High School Tour, he says he thinks his last cigarette might be his last for life. And if that’s the case, than the tour’s mission of preventing teen smoking was accomplished Tuesday in Bonner Springs.
The tour, started by ASA Entertainment 12 years ago in partnership with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, brings together professional BMX, skateboarding and inline skating athletes, who perform stunts on a portable half-pipe skating ramp at high schools across the country for two 10-12-week periods every year. During the performance, smoking statistics and information are shared with the students. The event ends with a trivia game, where prizes are given out and the students’ retention of the information they’ve been given is put to the test.
The idea behind the tour is that if you ply teens with “cool,” as one student described them, awe-inspiring tricks on a half-pipe, they’ll pay attention to what you have to say, BSHS Principal Joe Hornback said.
“They think that by doing some of the tricks and stuff that it will engage the kids and they’ll listen a little bit better,” he said of the tour, which has been sponsored by the U.S. Marines for the past four years.
Hornback says, at BSHS, there are definitely some students who could benefit from the lesson being shared.
“We have kids that smoke, we have kids that chew tobacco,” he said. “And if we pretend it doesn’t happen, we can’t address it.”
This go-around of the tour started two weeks ago, tour manager Sara Kindig said, and will mostly be relegated to the Midwest, with future stops scheduled at schools in Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Tulsa. There is no charge for schools to participate in the tour.
Tuesday’s visit, which took place during the last hour of the school day, featured performances from professional skateboarder Anthony Furlong, professional BMX riders Jimmy Walker, Trevor Meyer and Dustin Grice, and professional inline skater Eito Yasutoko, whose gravity-defying flips and spins in the air were a favorite among several of the BSHS students.
Professional skateboarder Jimmy Coleman remained grounded during the performance as he shared smoking statistics and information with the students, including that after only one year of regular smoking, a pint’s-worth of tar has built up in the lungs, and that 28 out of the 50 states have passed statewide bans on smoking in restaurants or other public, indoor establishments.
Students were able to quickly answer the trivia questions at the end of the performance, and that’s how tour officials know that the message is being heard, Kindig said.
“That’s why we do trivia, you know, to see what they’re retaining,” she said. “You know, you think that kids aren’t listening, but then you do trivia and they can recite that information back to you really well … You think that they’re not hearing it, but I think kids these days are just so used to getting so much information at one time that they process it differently now. And I don’t think a single kid missed trivia today. Every single kid got it on their first try.”
It’s true that, when asked what he was coming away from the tour with, the first memory mentioned by BSHS senior Rotha Parks wasn’t the half-pipe tricks. Instead, it was “information. Lots and lots of information,” as he said.
And that’s the reaction Kim Bolewski, BSHS nurse, was hoping for when she organized the ASA High School Tour’s stop at BSHS. She says she wants her students to have enough information at their disposal, relayed to them in a fun and entertaining way, that they will choose to make the right decision when it comes to smoking.
She said it was her hope the program keeps teens who are teetering or who have smoked in the past from becoming smokers. “And even the kids who already are (smoking), that maybe it’s enough information, if there’s some who are wanting to quit, to get them to commit to quitting,” Bolewski said.