Mystery Campaign at Jr. Highs
Message Keeps Students Guessing
Poudre School District junior high students were recently kept guessing when mysterious promotional material with the message “Down” began popping up around school.
Students found the message on computers, stickers and even on hoodies that some peers were wearing around school.
To help change the perception of what is cool, junior high students are participating in a school-wide social norming campaign to discourage tobacco use. Studies show that students begin experimenting with tobacco products in elementary school, but that frequent use of tobacco products occurs in junior high or high school.
The “Down for Life” campaign kicked off at each junior high in January. “Down” is youth terminology that means support and “Down for Life” is an affirmation of life for youth.
The campaign began with each school selecting six to eight students to be on the school’s “Street Team.” Students were selected for being the type of leader that other students follow because they are thought of as “bad” or “cool.”
Street Team members began the campaign by wearing “Down for Life” hoodies and passing out a flood of stickers with only the word “Down” on them. The goal was to create hype and initiate student interest. Students were also given the opportunity to write comments on oversize posters that stated “What Are You Down For?”
The full meaning of the campaign will be unveiled after Spring Break when hot pink girls’ t-shirts and black unisex shirts that state the “Live Tobacco Free” message will be given away to students.
The campaign will also feature a yet-to-be-determined give-away. Students will evaluate the campaign in May.
Kathy Rhodes, Webber Junior High health teacher, said the mysterious focus has not only benefited students trying to figure out the campaign, but also participating students.
“The students feel empowered and part of something important. This is an opportunity for them to be a role model for something good and they realize that they can impact other students in a positive and meaningful way,” says Rhodes. “My crew has really taken this project seriously. They care.”
April Stutters, PSD prevention specialist, hopes the campaign will help change student perceptions about tobacco use.
“This campaign is appealing to youth with a positive message about health. I think it is the most innovative thing going on in the state around tobacco prevention,” says Stutters.
Stutters pointed out that while friendships are a powerful influence with students, studies still show that the behavior of adults is even more important.
“Youth to youth is a powerful influence, but we still know that parents are the number one influence on their kids’ lives,” she said.