Students at B. McDaniel Middle School in Denison surprised their classmates on Wednesday, as they burst into a rap and dance that they had written about remaining tobacco free.

Students at B. McDaniel Middle School in Denison surprised their classmates on Wednesday, as they burst into a rap and dance that they had written about remaining tobacco free.


The flash mob presentation came as a part of coordinated, state-wide anti-tobacco campaigns, which culminated on Wednesday with Texas Tobacco-Free Kids Day. The event at B. McDaniel was coordinated and performed by members of a the Texas Tobacco Troopers, a student-organized, anti-tobacco group at the middle school.


The troopers wrote the rap and posted it on YouTube as a part of the SAYWHAT campaign — Students, Adults and Youth Working Hard Against Tobacco — which is a statewide youth-led campaign, that was created in hopes that an anti-smoking message will have more impact coming from a peer rather than an adult.


"Smoking is addressed in health classes in sixth grade," said Elizabeth Dunn, counselor at B. McDaniel Middle School. "You still get the same information, but it is more meaningful coming from a friend."


While Dunn plays a part in the group, she maintains that the true leadership and organization comes from the students themselves. "I am there, but I am really just an outsider," said Dunn.


The campaign was originally developed in 2010, and rolled out statewide in 2011, by the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas School Safety Center as a way to give students a voice in the anti-tobacco message.


In January, seven students from the middle school attended a summit in Van, Texas at Sky Ranch as a way to learn more information and statistics about tobacco use in children. At the summit, the B. McDaniel group learned that about 82.6 percent of all students in the state are smoke free. From this, the initial group made it a goal to bring the rate to 100 percent at their own school.


"I know several students who dip or smoke outside of school," said Aubyn Thompson, a member of the SAYWHAT group at B. McDaniel. "I know friends who have lost loved ones from it."


At the summit, the B. McDaniel group met students from other schools across the state. Many of the students had stories of friends or loved ones who have lost loved ones due to tobacco-related illness. This hit close to home for B. McDaniel student Je’Shayla Brown, who lost her grandmother in December.


"I’ve always known what (tobacco) can do," said Brown.


At the summit, organizers had placed large paper tombstones on the wall and asked students to write the names of friends or loved ones who had died from tobacco-related illnesses. By the end of the summit, the tombstones were full, said Dunn. Brown said she was shocked to see how many other people shared similar stories to hers.


Dunn said the events throughout this week are designed to progressively give the message that 81.9 percent of Texas teenagers do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Since the program was created, that number has increased to 82.6 percent. The message will be given in pieces throughout the week in the form of T-shirts, palm cards, bracelets and posters.


The troopers said they have many long-term goals and ideas about where they would like to see their program go. Ideas ranged from supporting and suggesting local, anti-smoking ordinances, like the public smoking ban in Paris, Texas, to a statewide ordinance that would outlaw parents from smoking in a car with a child. The current goal for the group is to raise funding for a trip in July to a SAYWHAT conference in Houston.


As the majority of the troopers are in eighth grade, they will be transferring to the new Denison High School next year, and Dunn said she hopes they will take the program onto that campus with them as the current seventh graders take leadership roles in the group next year.