MHS ACTS team teaches kids to avoid tobacco and alcohol

MARSHALL – For about 10 years, members in the Marshall ACTS organization have tried to be a positive influence in the lives of fellow students in the district. According to adviser Deb Herrmann, this year’s group of ninth- through 12th-grade students at Marshall High School have accomplished that and then some.

“They’re really nice kids, and I think we need to showcase more of the good things that kids do,” Herrmann said. “It’s fun to see the older kids be mentors.”

Between 40-50 high school students currently attend the Marshall ACTS meetings and help out in various ways, Herrmann said. Encouraging kids to stay away from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is one of the organization’s top concerns.

“Usually in the spring, we come over to Marshall Middle School and talk with the kids,” MHS senior Adam Cavazos said. “We have sixth- and eighth-grade presentations. We also go to the elementary school and have third-grade presentations. All of us take part in that.”

The reason for volunteering his time, Cavazos said, is to help keep kids out of trouble and away from chemicals.

“We’re big on teaching kids about staying away from tobacco and all the carcinogens that are harmful,” he said. “We get some props going and get candy handed out to kids who can answer any questions that we have. We have a lot of fun with it.”

Along with seniors Campbell Hofstetter and Angela Tauer and sophomore Brock Klaith, Cavazos recently helped take charge of planning a game night for MMS students.

“They planned all the games and decided who was in advertising, who was in charge of the games and so on,” Herrmann said. “They managed everything. They were in the leadership position and did a nice job.”

In addition to providing drug education and entertainment to students, the Marshall ACTS students also donated a significant amount of money to Food for Kids, a MMS service learning fundraising effort. Marshall Middle School Principal Mary Kay Thomas said they raised $300.

“I was impressed because they were so persistent and insistent and very much convinced us that they were doing this for activities for middle school-age kids and to be great role models for our kids,”?Thomas said. “And then the carrot on the end of that was that they were willing to donate to our Food for Kids.”

Hofstetter said he remembered attending a Marshall ACTS-sponsored lock-in when he was in middle school and that some of the members wanted to do something like that for the seventh- and eighth-grade students.

“We decided that maybe a lock-in wasn’t the best idea because there’s a lot more to control,” he said. “So we just decided to do a game night as an opportunity for the middle school kids to have one fun night where they didn’t have to go out and do something else that could lead to drugs and alcohol. They could stay here and have good, clean fun at the middle school.”

Overall, Hofstetter thought the night went well.

“I thought it was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was a good opportunity for the middle school kids to hang out with some of us and see that you can make right decisions in high school. We had a lot of fun activities for them to do.”

Along with having Xboxes in the cafeteria, a movie playing and volleyball available, Cavazos said there two pretty popular activities.

“In the gym, we had glow-in-the-dark dodgeball with laser lights put up,” Cavazos said. “I think that was a big hit for this age group. We also came up with this game in the theater called the Spotlight game. Kids had to run across the stage and we’d spotlight them.”

Tauer pointed out that they also had board games and other things for the seventh- and eighth-grade students to take part in.

“We wanted to make sure it was going to be a fun time for them,” Tauer said. “There were just a lot of things for the kids to do. I think it was just a good thing for kids to get off the street and have something to do, something educational.”

Seventh-grader Amanda Versaevel said that just sitting around and talking with her friends was her favorite part of the night.

“You got to do what you wanted to do,” she said. “There was music playing, so you could just hang out. I met my friends there. It was fun.”

Seventh-grader Luke Jones agree with Versaevel.

“I liked it because there was no schedule,” Jones said. “You could just talk to your friends and do whatever. It was pretty fun.”

Another student, seventh-grader Jake Hess, said he was glad that he decided to attend the game night.

“There was this flyer at school and it sounded pretty fun,” Hess said. “A bunch of my friends were also going. It was really fun, especially playing dodgeball. That was my favorite part.”

Klaith was pleased that there was a good turnout for game night.

“I think it went good,” Klaith said. “We’re trying to just keep them from partying on their own, to keep them from drinking or smoking. The most challenging part was keeping the kids under control.”

Thomas pointed out that the Marshall ACTS members not only supervised the young people at game night, they also came into the advisory times the week before and talked to the students.

“The high school kids came in, two at a time, and talked to over 20 seventh- and eighth-grade advisories,” she said. “They wanted to sell the programming and get a good turnout.”

After securing the facility, Tauer said, the group spent a lot of time hashing out the other details.

“We wanted to make sure we put the money towards something useful,” she said. “We made sure we had food for the kids and we tried to do what we could to make it successful.”

It seems as though game night was indeed a success. But even more importantly, the effort appears to have left lingering thoughts about the use of tobacco and other drugs.

“I know tobacco and alcohol are really damaging to your blood system and to your body,” Hess said.

Jones agreed.

“I find it pretty dumb that people do that at a young age,” he said. “They’re just destroying their body, basically. It’s dumb.”

For Hofstetter, hearing that his efforts have had an impact on students is music to his ears.

Being part of this organization since I was a freshman, I know the ropes,” he said. “It’s a good organization. Now I’m able to pass it down to the young kids so they can continue the tradition.”