Students Pushing for Smoke-free Law

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PUBLIC NEWS SERVICE | GREG STOTELMYER | MAY 18, 2015

In Kentucky, local smoke-free laws now cover about a third of the state’s nearly 4.5 million people.

And it may come as a surprise who is leading the call for a smoke-free ordinance in one town – seven fourth-graders.

They are members of the Destination Imagination team at Middlesboro Elementary. One of their teachers, Kelsey Massengill, says the students are learning a lot about how government works.

“We never imagined that they were going to take it this far,” Massengill says. “For them to learn how to do these things at such a young age, I think, has been a great learning experience for them.”

Tuesday night, the Middlesboro City Council takes a final vote on an ordinance first drafted by the students. It would prohibit smoking in all public places.

Fourth-grader Chloe Burchett says the dangers of secondhand smoke are a big reason why the smoke-free law is needed in her town.

“Because if it gets around a lot of people, it can make them very sick, and it’s bad for them to breathe in,” she explains.

Chloe says it’s been fun to be part of her school’s Destination Imagination team because, as she puts it, “You get to work together.”

Destination Imagination is a national, volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that fosters the creative process among young people.

Along with fellow teacher and team coach Tonya Martin, Massengill says the project has been a great civics lesson for the children – and adults, too.

“Tonya and I are just very proud that they have actually constructed a change for their community, and know that at such a young age that they can make a change,” Massengill says. “You know, you don’t have to be an adult to make a change in your community.”

The Middlesboro Elementary team will compete in the Destination Imagination Global finals later this month, an event billed as the world’s largest celebration of creativity.

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