Student athletes take part in 3rd annual tobacco cessation campaign

Published 4:36 pm Friday, August 24, 2018

Whether its a fourth-and-goal play on the 1-yard line or a last-second 3-pointer with time expiring, you have to have the right focus and attitude to handle the pressure.

Pressure tends to be in abundance for high school and junior athletics. With the day-to-day grinds, practices and other activities, sometimes children get put in position of using substances to help elevate problems.

That’s where the “Starter Never Start” campaign comes in.

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Entering the third year of existence, the program is used as a way to encourage peer-to-peer awareness about the effects of tobacco. For the program, students from local high schools pose for promotional pieces of art, ranging from banners and billboards, that will be displayed throughout the community.

Spearheaded by Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition, Carter County Health Department and a handful of other local agencies, Thursday’s photo session at Citizens Bank Stadium at Elizabethton High School was a joy according to Jilian Reece.

Reece, Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition executive director, said this year was the first time in the program’s inception that they were able to include student athletes from all schools in Elizabethton and Carter County. From football and baseball to cheerleader and band, students donned their full attire to take part in the campaign.

“It’s so great to see the growth of the program,” Reece said.

Reece was also quick to thank Rebecca Marr for her photography. Marr has partnered with Reece over the past three years to shoot the promotional artwork for the campaign.

“She has been such an asset,” Reece said. “Whether it’s shooting the photos for our billboards or taking photos of the Elizabethton Twins, she does such a great job and we wouldn’t be able to accomplish this without her.”

Another aspect of the campaign is encouraging coaches to get involved with their students. EHS head football coach Shawn Witten and junior football coach Brandon Blevins were just a pair of coaches on site that participated in Thursday’s stretch of activities.

Reece added the importance of having coaches involved with a part of the promotional artwork being focused on coaches involved with children’s development on and off the field. Taking away the popular tradition of rivalries, Reece added this program gives all students involved a chance to take pride in the community and encourage each other to steer clear of tobacco products.

To learn more about the programs offered locally, visit the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition Facebook page. Promotional banners and other pieces of work are expected to be donned across the community in the coming days.