RYASAP honors Masuk student

Rachel Kaplan, Editor , (Monroe Courier)

May 17, 2007

Eight young artists from the greater Bridgeport region were honored for their graphic designs at a recent Anti-Tobacco Recognition Celebration at the Burroughs Community Center in Bridgeport.

Masuk student Ben Nelson was among the students honored. He said his desire to design a comic book inspired his winning art work.

He explained that Lucky Strike is the super villain in his work. The double entendre is simple - Lucky Strike also is a brand of cigarettes.

His work reads: "You don't want this type of Lucky Strike" and features cigarettes in the place of bowling pins.

The anti-smoking celebration showcased year-long efforts at promoting healthy decisions against tobacco use by youth and adults.

The Regional Youth/Adult Substance Abuse Project (RYASAP) sponsored the event, and RYASAP staff members were on hand to recognize the young artists.

Trumbull First Selectman Raymond Baldwin was guest speaker, and despite the heavy subject, he kept the mood light and the spotlight directed at the students.

Baldwin said that progress against teen smoking has been made, but there still is much work to be done.

After all, cigarette packs clearly state that they cause death. "That should be enough," Baldwin said. "Apparently, it isn't."

Jan Laster, RYASAP prevention partnership director, said the tobacco industry has indescribable amounts of money to spend in its campaigns.

"To counteract that, we have to be crafty," she said.

It is RYASAP's belief that the peer-to-peer message is the most effective method of conveying important information, Laster said. Young adults often are more likely to listen to other young adults than to parents or school administrators.

Robert Francis, RYASAP's executive director, said that was why the anti-smoking artwork they create is so powerful.

"We've had a major reduction in young people smoking," he said. "But every time we relax, the numbers creep back up. So we can't relax."

Baldwin agreed that it is important to get young people involved. It is these young people, he said, "who will show their peers what this problem is all about."

"This is a special day in the prevention community," Laster said. It is one of the few opportunities to recognize the student artists and volunteers "who work tirelessly" all year long, she said.

The winners of the anti-tobacco competition were selected from nearly 200 movie slide design entries submitted by area middle school, high school and college students.

Recognized for their winning designs were: Carl Henry, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield; Dana Longfellow, Fairfield Warde High School, Fairfield; Julie Fracker, Hillcrest Middle School, Trumbull; Sara M. A. Swain, Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport; Ben Nelson, Masuk High School, Monroe; Jesse Gillies, Trumbull High School, Trumbull; Joe Gillotti, John Read Middle School, Redding; Anthony Urszenyi, Fairfield Ludlowe High School, Fairfield.

During late 2007 and early 2008, the winning designs will be shown intermittently before feature films at the Crown Marquis Theatre in Trumbull.

The local community prevention councils, including ACT - Fairfield's Prevention Council; the Easton/Redding Community Coalition; ADAM (Alcohol & Drug Awareness of Monroe, Inc.); The Bridgeport Mayor's Substance Abuse Prevention Council; and Trumbull CARES - The First Selectman's Prevention Council, are significant supporters of the regional efforts against tobacco use by youth and adults.