Graphic lessons

Students teaching students is an effective way to convey important messages. That was the case recently for elementary students at two Cape Girardeau schools and for teenagers at Notre Dame Regional High School.

At Franklin and Jefferson elementary schools, Central High School students -- Teens Against Tobacco Use -- used skits and show-and-tell to give fourth-graders information about the hazards of smoking. A smoker's lung and a jar of cigarette tar were disgusting to the students. And that's exactly the reaction the high school students wanted.

Teens Against Tobacco Use is a project of a student organization called Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. The group is visiting all of the Cape Girardeau elementary schools and the middle school.

The presentations are sponsored by the Tobacco Prevention Project at Saint Francis Medical Center, which received a two-year grant of $147,000 from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

By the end of September, the project hopes to have reached 10,000 students in Southeast Missouri.

At Notre Dame, a staged two-vehicle accident involving a driver who had been drinking silenced the crowd of students who watched as police and emergency crews worked the scene. The students were further hushed when the coroner and funeral home crew arrived on the scene. (Video of the mock accident can be viewed on the semissourian.com Web site.)

The docudrama, called "Every 15 Minutes," is based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics showing that someone is killed in an alcohol-related accident every quarter-hour in the United States.

Such graphic presentations are hard-hitting, but they grab the attention of most students. Elementary students said they had no idea smoking could cause so much lung damage. And high schools students said witnessing the aftermath of a fatal accident made them think about the consequences of drinking and driving.