Catch My Breath: Peers Supporting Peers for Healthy Choices

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Small school communities like ours often experience the benefit of being able to discuss important and topical issues on a community-wide basis. Whether this is regarding reflections on our service-learning days, mental health, and healthy choices, it helps give common ground to a diverse group of peers who have been raised across the country and the world. For the past two Fridays, New Hampton School upper classes joined together with a group of student teachers from Plymouth State University to dive into the Catch My Breath program. Together, the goal of the program is to empower students to speak to each other about the dangers of vaping and nicotine.

Partnering with PSU

Led by Professor Irene Cucina, Professor of Health and Physical Education, New Hampton juniors and seniors first heard about the purpose behind the program. They then joined a student-teacher with their advisory group to begin the work of learning and thinking about tactics for discussing nicotine dangers and cessation with underclassmen or friends.

Exercises included students thinking about their physical and mental goals for the next year, as well as engaging in a game of “True or False” about vaping, and finally, working in groups to write down the consequences of vaping. Reflecting on what they learned was also a key step in the first week to see what their perceptions of vaping were versus the realities. During the second week, students worked on communication skills and how to advocate to younger students.

The peer-led approach is incredibly effective. Studies show that 7 out of 8 students say they are less likely to use e-cigarettes or similar nicotine devices after completing the Catch My Breath program. And the total program reach is currently at 1.8 million students and counting, and is currently the “only school-based vaping prevention program proven to reduce the likelihood of vaping among youth.”

Continuing support on campus

Catch My Breath is a peer-reviewed, evidence-based youth vaping prevention program that provides up-to-date information to teachers, parents, and health professionals to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions about the use of e-cigarettes, including JUUL and disposable devices. And following the departure of the partnering student-teachers from Plymouth State, the work continues on campus.

Students are not alone in their journey for healthy choices, and the school has a structured support system through the health center on which they can rely. While New Hampton School is a substance-free and tobacco-free community, the health center offers nicotine cessation support through individual and group counseling, confidential appointments with an APRN, and nicotine replacement options, as well as the Healthy Choices Support Group. This is a confidential group that meets Monday nights in the health center. We encourage all students to treat their bodies with respect and to make healthy decisions that will sustain them throughout their lives. Additional information on the school’s policies on illegal substances and our sanctuary policy can learn more in the Student Handbook.

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