Students rock through school day against smoking

May 23, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

Back and forth and back and forth.

That's how Devyn Sutton moved in a wooden rocking chair for 30 minutes nonstop at Burleigh Manor Middle School on Friday.

"I'm rocking to raise money for the cancer and lung associations and to have fun," the eighth-grader said as she sat in a rocker decorated with balloons and strings of Christmas lights. "I'm having a blast."

The 2-year-old Ellicott City school held its first annual rock-a-thon on Friday. Sponsored by Burleigh Manor's School Community Action Team, the all-day fund-raiser was to increase student awareness of the dangers of smoking, as well as raise funds for the heart, lung and cancer associations.

By 11 a.m., the students had reached their goal of $5,000 in pledges. All week long, they canvassed their community seeking pledges.

A 1992 survey conducted by the state Board of Education found that 14.7 percent of county students ages 11 or 12 and 14.5 percent of those ages 13 or 14 reported having smoked.

"We decided smoking was the biggest problem for youths going into high school," said Barbara Mongello, the school's health teacher and School Community Action Team coordinator. "We wanted to get the message out as early as possible."

Jim DeGeorge, the school's principal, thinks some of his students already have experimented with smoking.

"I do think there are some kids who do experiment with smoking, because this is an age group that does that," Mr. DeGeorge said. "My hunch is that 50 to 100 [Burleigh Manor] kids at one time or another experimented with tobacco."

Devyn, who raised $20 for the rock-a-thon, said she experimented once with cigarettes while with a group of friends. "I tried it, but I didn't like it," she said.

She and other students signed up for a block of time to rock. No student was allowed to miss more than one class.

The rockers lined both sides of a hallway on the lower level called "Student Street," which contains lockers, the school store and other student services. Anti-smoking posters decorated the walls.

Advisory groups sponsored each rocker and decorated them. The themes varied from "Just Married," with multiple cans attached by string, to a chair covered with messy, sticky "silly string."

The action team used the 45 Boston rockers, each valued at $30, because the chairs were something the teachers had in common at the 550-student body school.

"I put rockers in each of the classrooms to create an environment that I think is more inviting for kids and teachers," Mr. DeGeorge said.

As loud pop music blared and students' voices filled the air, the eager, determined rockers continued to rock. As they rocked, some read, some listened to Walkmans and some munched on snacks.

Students who raised $10 got a water bottle. Those who raised $15 received white T-shirts that read "Say No to Cancer Joe" on the rear.

As he rocked, Benjamin Kline threw a beach ball to nearby students. During the ball's flight, it strayed and hit Kristen Franson on the side of her head.

"It really didn't hurt," the sixth-grader said. Beside the knock-on-the-head, Kristen said she was having fun. "It's a good chance to do homework and read."

Members of the school's PTA also participated. From 10:30 to 11 a.m. Jill Betz, whose son Brian is a seventh-grader at the school, rocked. To pass the time, she read "New York Dead," a murder mystery.

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