Winton Woods High School students Elijah Parker and Jada Davis are best friends who are using their voices to fight tobacco use. With help from WeTHRIVE!, PreventionFIRST!, and the Underground, they created and recorded anti-tobacco radio spots that air on 101.1 FM The Wiz.
The Underground in Forest Park runs a free afterschool program for high school students. That’s where Elijah and Jada met Cristie Carlson of WeTHRIVE! and Christi Valentini-Lackner of PreventionFIRST! The organizations have partnered to educate and empower youth about tobacco use prevention as part of a grant from the Ohio Department of Health.
As Jada describes it, the teens were invited to sit in on a meeting about making anti-tobacco radio spots. Cristie and Christi provided lots of facts about tobacco use, and the words caught Jada’s attention. “I write poetry,” Jada said. “So I instantly started connecting everything.” She usually keeps her poetry private, but felt inspired to create spoken word messages that would be heard on the radio.
Here’s a sample of what she composed:
Big tobacco makes a lot of money when you get addicted,
so don’t put that in your mouth cause you should know that it is vicious,
each cigarette you smoke can bring you closer to addiction.
You think hookah is cool?
Vape and cigarillos too,
but once you have eternal problems,
then you’ll see my point of view.
Your lungs begin to blacken and your health begins to sink,
so don’t waste your money on your own death,
you need to think.
Once the scripts for the radio spots were written, it was time to head into the Underground’s state-of-the-art recording studio. Jada, a musical theater actress who also plays the cello and ukulele, was all-in. Elijah (who sings his school’s Varsity Ensemble) wasn’t as sure. “I usually don’t talk that much, so putting my voice everywhere…I was like, ‘I don’t know about this,’” he said. “But now people are saying, ‘hey Elijah, I heard you on the radio.’”
Both teens have relatives and friends who smoke. “My parents smoke,” Elijah said. “They’ve heard the radio spots and are proud of me, but they are not going to stop. They’ve tried, but it hasn’t worked.”
Jada’s passion is evident. “A lot of people say they smoke because it makes them feel good,” she said. “You’re killing yourself! Find other things that make you feel good without actually harming you. Go to a choir concert…jump on a trampoline!”