Agents Mendoza and Vona ready to apprehend offenders. The two teachers were placed at Steinbrenner to root out students who vape. Photo courtesy of Mari Hernandez.

It’s no secret that Steinbrenner has been taking actions recently to try and reduce the number of students that vape during school. From the poster that sparked hundreds of jokes that reads, “It’s not cool to JUUL in school,” to the stricter enforcement of the policy, administration is making it perfectly clear to students that they don’t support vaping on or off school property.

This year in particular, things have been taken to a new level in the war against vaping in that several teachers at Steinbrenner have been recruited as agents for an organization designed for the very same purpose. The Nicotine Addiction Reduction Committee (N.A.R.C.) works to not only catch students in the act and provide punishment, but also to prevent future instances of vaping at school.

The program was originally called the Youth Assimilation Squad (Y.A.S.) and it recruited young teachers to get information on what was “cool with the youth,” in order to help other teachers communicate in ways their students would respond to more.

“When I first joined Y.A.S., I was supposed to investigate what students were talking about and what it was that they were interested in. I’d then report back to the board about what teachers should start implementing into their teaching. It was amazing the types of things I found out; I got a bunch of teachers to dab a few years ago and they all came back and told me that they thought that they really were connecting with their students better,” said English teacher Marie Mendoza.

Unfortunately, after vaping became a more pressing issue in high schools, the program was switched to focus on younger teachers showing kids that vaping isn’t acceptable, especially during school.

The first approach is to get the message out in a way kids will respond to. Since these teachers were already part of Y.A.S., they tend to have an easier time communicating with the students, making them prime candidates to effectively spread their message. Another bonus is, sometimes students don’t even know that they are talking to a teacher since a lot of these teachers are often mistaken for students. This allows for students to not feel like they are being lectured, but instead feel like they are just talking to one of their more “woke” classmates.

However, a stronger approach is needed for many students who still decide to vape during school. For dealing with those students, teachers in the program must undergo extensive physical training in order to be prepared for what they will deal with in the field. This training includes not only martial arts, but also an entire class dedicated to storming into the bathroom as dramatically and heroically as possible. Teachers are also instructed to keep a gas mask and portable fire extinguisher on them at all times, just in case things get smoky. Although it may seem like a lot, the teachers in the program tend to find it rewarding.

“The first time I caught a student, I found him trying to blow o’s in the guy’s bathroom. He actually was so bad at it that I knew he wasn’t in too deep yet and he had a chance to be saved. I felt like a freaking ninja, and it was probably one of the most rewarding moments of my life,” said English teacher John Eric Vona.

In coming forward about this new program, the hope is not only to make kids less likely to vape during school, but to change the overall mentality of it and make everyone think twice before holding up their Vape Nation hand sign.

 

Grace Becker // News Editor

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