by Tina Canon
You're a smart cookie, Norwood Elementary students were told Friday, if you don't start smoking.
If the message wasn't unique, the presentation was. Students received treats patterned after fortune cookies. Messages urging them to avoid tobacco use were tucked inside.
The exercise was part of the "Smart Cookie" program. Harrison County fifth-graders have been participating since March 19 and the program will continue through May 25.
The program is sponsored by the Harrison County Medical Society Alliance and was a concept developed by members Delia Naranjo and Joyce Rabanal. A $10,000 grant covers costs for materials.
A poster contest, an essay contest and a public service announcement contest are part of the program.
Students also paste the cookie messages in a notebook. Later, they share them with their families.
"It's a catchy program," Norwood teacher Beth Belcastro said. "The students love the treat, but the best part is linking with the parents. The parent response has been very enthusiastic."
The students seem to be enjoying the project.
"It's pretty cool," Adam Golden said. "The cookies taste like vanilla wafers."
Another student, Lindsay Williams, said the program made her think. And, "my parents think it's a good program because it encourages us not to smoke."
"If this program helps the students to pay attention to the message and has some impact on them, it's been well worth the effort the past year," said alliance member Sue McKinney.
At the project's conclusion, contest winners will be honored at assemblies in each school. At the end of the assemblies, the fifth-graders will pledge to remain tobacco-free by signing a tobacco-free pledge card.
Staff Writer Tina Canon can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at tcanon exponent-telegram.com.