When Grade 8 students — now graduates — Leila Ben Mohamed and Chris Coggins arrived at the Yarmouth Hospital Foundation office at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital to present a cheque for $759.15, the Maple Grove students were excited to share how they came to raise the money and why they chose to donate to the foundation. They were part of STOMP, a pilot project aimed at helping students in grades 7 to 12 develop an understanding of the factors influencing tobacco use and vaping and the consequences.
STOMP stands for Students Together Moving to Prevent Tobacco Use, explained faculty adviser and Grade 7 teacher Max Taylor. The group consists of student council members, athletes and kids who have experienced vaping themselves. Vaping is pretty common among students especially in the bathrooms, Leila and Chris agree. Smoking not so much. Kids perceive that vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking and don’t appreciate the dangers, their teacher pointed out. It’s more accessible and “you’re not walking around smelling of it.”
“It’s a program where you’re helping the community, you’re helping kids and your friends be aware of vaping and it’s a powerful message,” said Chris.
Leila explained that they made presentations to each class, followed by making posters inspired by the STOMP message. Leila and another student, Faith Lewis, were interviewed about STOMP on Y95. They also had donation jars in each classroom, Chris added. “If you raised a certain amount of money, Mr. Taylor would get pied in the face.” He wasn’t the only teacher to volunteer to get up close and personal with a whipped cream pie. And there’s video — lots of video!
Chris said the program has had a good response and made at least one convert. A friend of his stopped after hearing their presentation.
“We chose the foundation to donate to because most people affected by smoking or vaping have to come to the hospital if they are having problems,” Leila said. “Everyone needs the hospital one time or another.”
“We love to see donations from student groups and schools,” said foundation managing director Mary Surette. “We really appreciate their generosity at a young age. A huge thank you to these extraordinary young people!”
Maple Grove is one of about a dozen test locations across Canada for STOMP, an initiative of Physical Health and Education Canada. The two-year pilot project was launched at Maple Grove for the 2022-23 school year.