Second Year of Unique Teen Violence and Tobacco Prevention Workshops Builds on Success at Colorado State University

Note to Editors: Reporters are welcome to attend the sessions on tobacco and teen violence. Photo opportunities include students producing television and radio spots on June 12-14 for preventing tobacco use; Hispanic issues panel concerning tobacco use June 13; anger management training with nationally known speaker June 19; and television and radio production for violence prevention July 19-21. Interviews with participants and project directors can be arranged by contacting June Greist at (970) 491-6432.

Fifty-four high school juniors from around the country will come to Colorado State University June 9-23 to participate in the second round of a unique research project. The teens will build on their predecessor’s achievements last year in creating and producing their own anti-tobacco and anti-violence campaigns targeting their peers. A large part of the teens’ success will follow the workshops when they return home to work with their local media outlets to distribute the campaigns.

The institutes are part of a research project looking at the effects of localized media campaigns and peer-leadership training on youth smoking and violence. Kathleen Kelly, associate professor of marketing in the College of Business, and Randall Swaim, associate scientific director of the Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research at Colorado State, run the teen tobacco and violence prevention projects with a shared grant of $2 million from the National Institutes on Drug Abuse. The violence study is a pilot project that Swaim hopes will serve as a national model for future research on preventing teen violence.

The workshops are specifically designed for high school students from smaller communities, which often don’t have resources for prevention campaigns.

Twenty-four youths from Douglas, Ariz. and Anthony, N.M. will attend the tobacco-prevention institute from June 9-16. The violence-prevention institute from June 16-23 will draw 30 students from Winters, Calif., Monticello, Ill. and New Iberia, La.

During the separate weeklong workshops students will learn how to write news articles, produce their own public service announcements for television, and produce and provide voice-overs for radio spots. They’ll craft their own messages specifically aimed at teens in their local communities. Because the communities participating in the tobacco project have very high Latino populations, students from those communities also will produce versions of their television and radio public service announcements in Spanish.

Last summer, youth from the same communities attended the institutes and spearheaded campaigns throughout the school year. According to Kelly, those students gained the knowledge and confidence to become effective peer and community leaders.

"As a result of their public speaking experiences since the institutes, many teens gained reputations as experts in their community on smoking and violence prevention," said Kelly. "Some participants even felt that they had become celebrities. When they’re asked to autograph campaign posters, it’s a clear sign that other kids look up to them as role models."

Participants in each institute attend workshops on youth leadership, team building, media literacy, media relations, public speaking, TV- and radio-PSA production, and special issues in prevention. Local high-school youth will assist in training participants in media literacy for both institutes, and in teaching about sexual harassment issues for the violence institute.

Kelly said the overall goal of the institutes with the new groups of participants is to increase the momentum of their campaigns. She added that the benefits extend beyond meeting project goals.

"Developing youth leadership and communication skills are key elements of our institutes," said Kelly. "The kids can use their experiences at Colorado State not only to run successful campaigns, but also to help achieve success in other areas of their lives."

The teen workshops are the second part of the research that began last year by selecting communities with populations of less than 30,000 that were 20 miles or further from a major metropolitan area. Local community leaders were then chosen to receive training on how to organize and run an effective prevention campaign through their local media.

The students participating in the media workshops were selected through an application and/or an interview process by local school and community leaders. When the teens return from the media training workshops, community leaders will lend their assistance and support in launching the campaigns.