New program helps prevent use of e-cigarettes in schools

Every middle school student in Hickory Public Schools is getting an extra life lesson when it comes to e-cigarettes and the dangers of vaping.

“Their young brains are susceptible to addiction,” said Grandview Middle School nurse Krystal Morgan.

She’s teaching seventh graders the facts, exposing the myths and reinforcing how to say no. The curriculum is part of the CATCH My Breath program.

“I know to say no by the name because I was taught that way but know the consequences it’s totally a no,” said student Nelson Brockenborough.

Both middle school principals Dr. Jennifer Griffin and Nala Sadler-Sherrill say the lesson is very important.

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“I know there are middle school students vaping and using e-cigarettes. We don’t see a lot of it in this school but we know it’s happening and we want to do what we can to make sure they make good decisions,” said Griffin who has 455 students in her school.

Sadler-Sherrill has 579 students in Northview Middle School. The CATCH program started last spring and is in its first full year.

“We’re taking it a step further and educating the whole child,” said Sherrill-Sadler.

The program was developed by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. It launched three years ago with a pilot program and has now reached more than 700 schools and 300,000 students.

Marcella Bianco is the program director and believes Hickory Public Schools is one of the districts leading the state with prevention and education.

“There’s such a need that some schools are implementing it homeroom, advisory period or really wherever they can get it,” said Bianco.

The program is free thanks to a grant from CVS Health. Bianco believes students are listening. Seven out of eight students stay they are less likely to use e-cigarettes after going through CATCH My Breath.

“My hope is we have less kids trying e-cigarettes and vapes,” said Morgan, the school nurse.

If your school is interested (catchinfo.org) it is easy to enroll and receive the online curriculum.