Student Wellness Action Teams are present in almost all Cherokee County schools, and members learn about their health and how to educate others.

Previously known as Students Working Against Tobacco, the clubs are organized through the Cherokee County Healthy Living Program, a part of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.

While students continue to learn and educate others about the dangers of tobacco, they also focus on healthy eating, physical activity, and ways to combat other vices.

The pandemic and changes in school schedules and safety precautions have limited what SWAT clubs can do, but most continued activities in the fall and have found ways to share through virtually learning.

"Cherokee County SWAT students have persevered during the fall semester while overcoming COVID-19 setbacks. Each team was able to adapt their efforts to better the health of their school and community through the use of social media, school websites, and online learning tools," said Lindsey Durant, Cherokee County Healthy Living Program assistant coordinator.

Grand View SWAT students researched ways for people to reduce time on their phones, and conducted a cell phone usage challenge.

"Some ideas they came up with were to turn off notifications and put your phone away while eating. Students came up with alternative activities to avoid unmindful eating, and moving more such as drawing, playing outside, board games, and reading," said Durant.

In October, Woodall SWAT students designed and painted face masks with red ribbons or phrases such as "Just say no!" and "Don't do drugs!"

They wore the masks when they distributed red ribbons to fellow students on Oct. 30.

Before Peggs Public School went virtual, SWAT celebrated Veterans Day by creating posters to honor those who served.

"Students learned physical activity could come in different forms and does not have to be a sport. Students want to emphasize that by getting your body up and moving, even by creating and hanging posters, you can burn calories and prevent unmindful eating," said Durant.

Briggs SWAT promoted the Great American Smoke Out on its Facebook page. According to Durant, GASO began in the 1970s when Arthur P. Mullaney challenged citizens to give up smoking for one day, and donate the money that would have been spent on cigarettes to a scholarship fund.

"Today, this initiative is to help tobacco users stop smoking all together. SWAT students wanted to encourage everyone who smokes or vapes to consider putting down those products for that day. If you can stop for this one day, maybe it will be the day you quit for good," she said.

Along with learning about GASO, Norwood SWAT also made multiple videos about childhood obesity, the benefits of drinking water, and more. These can be viewed on the Cherokee County SWAT Facebook page. The students also participated in a video for Be the Change, as a partnership with the Reaching Our Hulbert Community coalition.

Tenkiller SWAT created a slideshow explaining the dangers of using tobacco products and played it on TVs in the school cafeteria.

"The SWAT students thought that it would be the most effective way for the student body to be informed about the dangers of tobacco use," said Durant.

Due to a high number of Tahlequah Middle School students vaping, SWAT hung up vaping cessation information in the hallways and put My Life My Quit tear offs in the bathrooms.

"My Life My Quit is a hotline for youth ages 13 to 17 for tobacco cessation support," said Durant.

The Keys Student Wellness Action Team continues to offer their fitness club after school, and even expanded it to include virtual students using Google Classroom. Some of the activities include yoga, lifting weights, aerobics, running, and walking.

"SWAT students and athletes understand how important it is for you to work out and stay in shape. This allows for them to be able to play better, be stronger, and being able to participate virtually will help them maintain the progress they have made," said Durant.

The Sequoyah High School SWAT members had to reach their fellow students virtually about physical activity, nutrition, and tobacco prevention.

"Students were able to send out health messages through student email accounts and on the school Facebook page. Students were able to participate in Red Ribbon Week by sending out daily messages, information on how to stay active during virtual learning and over winter break, and how to make healthy food options over the holidays.

"SWAT students' continued passion for educating their peers has not gone unnoticed, and will continue to impact the lives of those who surround them," said Durant.

For information on how to eat better, move more, and be tobacco free, visit okhelpline.com or shapeyourfutureok.com.

Get involved

Youth can text "Start My Quit" to 855-891-9989 to participate.

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