Cherokee County school children took part in an educational and fun experience Thursday afternoon filled with music, magic, and laughs.
The 2019 Cherokee-Etowah-DeKalb Mental Heath’s Youth Prevention Conference found its way to the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena, welcoming all students in grades 5-8 from all schools in Cherokee County. This year’s conference, put together by CED Substance Abuse Coordinator Hannah Chandler, took on a focus around smoking, vaping, and marijuana. Chandler took the opportunity to talk with us about the goals of the conference first hand.
To help engage with the kids, the CED called on the services of two incredibly talented speakers, Robert Hackenson Jr. and Reggie Dabbs. They provided an entertaining experience for the students while also giving out advice and important cautions about misinformation marketing around what they might believe about smoking.
Especially in the last year, the rise in the use of certain forms of smoking, particularly with the popularity of vaping or Juuling (referring to the more popular brand of vaping pens and cartridges), has produced a larger need to provide children with the proper education of what these smoking outlets do to your body. Hackenson’s presentation took a big focus on this, talking with the Cherokee County youth about what exactly is in these vaping devices, and about how the “harmless, safer than smoking” approach these companies take should never be taken at face value without doing the research yourself.
For Reggie Dabbs’ side of things, with the WEIS Road Crew able to catch a bit of his interaction with the audience, he provided stories to the kids from his past while mixing in jokes and some impressive musical ability. Dabbs’ saxophone renditions of Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars hits, and a very nice cover of the Disney’s Frozen hit “Let It Go,” got the students moving and singing and enjoying themselves, but also kept them wanting to hear more and more from Dabbs as he made sure the kids understand his life stories and relate to them. Stories such as how when he was 8 and his biological mother gave him up, or sitting in a room full of people but feeling completely alone, the masks many of us wear in our lives, and so much more.
Knowing about the risks of smoking, the risks of peer pressure and embracing marketing, and even the ability to keep a positive mental attitude were all key for this year’s conference, and the mix of entertainment and new knowledge for our county’s kids provided a great outlet to deliver these messages in.
The CED would also like to extend a thank you to several people for their continued support of the Youth Prevention Conference, including:
- Cherokee County Commission
- Centre City Council
- Cedar Bluff Town Council
- Sand Rock Town Council
- Leesburg Town Council
- Cherokee County Health Care Authority
- Cherokee County Children’s Policy Council
- Cherokee County Board of Education
- Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce
- Coca-Cola & Little Debbie for providing water and snacks