students running

Students Become Empowered to Help Peers Prevent Tobacco Use

08:40 AM - April 18, 2022

Training in gym with students

Recently, EDCOE hosted a student training day for the Tobacco-Use Prevention Education program which included students from El Dorado, Independence, Union Mine, and Black Oak Mine Unified School District. The purpose of this program is to equip adolescents with knowledge and develop conversational strategies that help show support for peers who need to break free from tobacco. Dr. Melissa Kistler, Director of District and Program Support and TUPE Liaison notes, “This training is unique because it is the first time we have cross collaboration between school districts in this county.” The collaboration between faculty advisors and district leadership: Chuck Palmer - ACSA Regional President and EDUHSD Senior Director of Student Services and Innovation, Bridget Isham BOMUSD FAST Coordinator, and Nora Mays Health Educator and Friday Night Live Lead from Behavioral Health is a big reason this happened.

The training was full of fun and engaging activities that taught the students conversational skills and other strategies for interacting with classmates. They gained knowledge about different types of tobacco and e-cigarette products along with their physical and mental effects on users. For example, one of the most common forms of e-cigarette products is equivalent to over 40 cigarettes. If the average tobacco user consumes one pack a day, that equates to more than two packs. This is one example of the dozens of varieties being sold to the younger generation.

Derrick Kirk, a Youth Development Specialist at the Contra Costa County Office of Education, facilitated the training and noted, “Sites that integrate TUPE have reported less [tobacco] usage rates. There's a better response when students speak to other students. If they are on campus, they have a better influence, and we see a better output.” Kirk also mentioned that the program began with three school districts and quickly grew to eleven within their county.

Ronnie, a senior student of the Golden Sierra Junior Senior High School Peer Advocate program shared her personal reason for attending, “I became a peer advocate because mine [peer advocate] in 9th grade really helped me. Peer advocates give 9th graders who are really stressed out an outlet to vent their emotions, and we give them healthy coping mechanisms that aren’t tobacco, nicotine, or alcohol. This is my way of giving back to my community. This is how I can leave a positive legacy.”

Gabrielle Marchini, Director of Curriculum Instruction and Accountability notes, “The TUPE program has been in existence for many years but, over the past 4 years or so, the significance of student advocacy and leadership development has surfaced as a fundamental piece of effective programs. It is very exciting to see that El Dorado County has made this key element an area of focus and I look forward to the positive differences that this will make in terms of our children being better informed and developing a deeper awareness of how tobacco (and other substance) use might affect their lives and choices moving forward.”

For more information on the TUPE program, visit

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