Sending a smoke-free message

According to Sarah Ragsdale, an 18-year-old senior at Carson High School, many middle-school-age students have the misconception that smoking is the "in" thing to do in high school.

For her senior project, Ragsdale wants to send the Carson City youth a different message:

"Only one-fourth of teenagers smoke, not all," Ragsdale said. "It is not the norm to smoke in high school."

In order to get this message across, Ragsdale is organizing an anti-tobacco nightclub event for middle school students. The event, which will take place on April 3 at Carson High School from 7-10 p.m., will feature music, dancing and games, along with educational resources about smoking.

According to Ragsdale, teens will have "the feel of breaking into the school" when they enter the club through a back entrance.

They can then wander to the dance in Senator Square or to the commons area, which will be decorated like a coffee lounge complete with pool, Ping-Pong and air hockey tables.

The event will also feature booths where teens can learn more about the risks of smoking.

However, Ragsdale stresses that the goal of the club is to provide a smoke-free, fun environment for teens, not to make them feel like they are being pounded with information.

"I don't want them to feel like they're in school," says Ragsdale. "Kids in that age group shut off if you come at them as a teacher with facts."

Ragsdale, project coordinator for Carson High's Teens Against Tobacco Use program, has been committed to warning Carson City's Youth about the dangers of tobacco throughout her high school career.

Under her leadership, she and other members of the program have given presentations about the dangers of smoking to roughly 1,500 Carson City students.

For her senior project, Ragsdale decided the nightclub would be a great way to send her message to even more of Carson's young community.

Not one to beat around the bush, Ragsdale has been busy fund raising and has already received supplies from the American Lung Association as well as a $6,000 grant from the Community Council On Youth.

She and other members of the club, as a part of this aggressive anti-smoking campaign, are also changing their name to Resist and will use the nightclub event as an unveiling for the new Resist name and logo.

Ragsdale is hoping the nightclub event will help Carson's youth to "associate the Resist logo with young, healthy, and fun high school students."

She and the other members of the program are well on their way to achieving this goal.

However, they need the community's help. Sponsors are needed for the event, as are donations of loveseats, chairs and dance lights. Anyone willing to help or give a donation can contact Sarah Ragsdale by e-mail at Prettyinpink225@aol.com or by phone at 882-1621.

As Ragsdale puts it, "Prevention is the only weapon in the smoking crisis," and she's determined to make the most of this weapon by getting the Carson City community involved in her senior project.

Janine Stone is a senior at Carson High School. She is doing her senior project on journalism and will be writing a series of stories highlighting projects of her peers.

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