BREWER, Maine — Sophomore Molly Wypyski learned all she could about chewing tobacco and how bad it is for teenagers so she could educate her fellow schoolmates at Brewer High School about it.
“A lot of the boys in the school do it,” she said Wednesday while standing in the middle of the second annual student-sponsored health fair at Brewer High. “A lot of guys didn’t know you can get a hairy tongue.”
A lot of guys also didn’t know that chewing tobaccos can eat away at your jaw, or that sometimes it can lead to death, she said.
Now they do.
Wypyski, who sits on the high school’s Student Health Advisory Board, is one of a dozen students who educated classmates about subjects that every teen needs to know about, she said, listing alcohol and drug use, pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, peer pressure, domestic violence, eating disorders and others.
The student group partnered with 17 local agencies or businesses, including Penobscot Community Health Care and the University of Maine recreation program, to put on the daylong health fair, which filled the school’s gym.
Students, and members of the public, got to learn about a number of factors that affect health and also got to have a little fun, said Kathrin Hastey, a family nurse practitioner at Brewer’s Student Health Center, a medical clinic at the high school.
The educational programs “raise awareness of health risks teens are facing today and how they can overcome them,” she said.
In addition to displays about prevention and how to stay healthy, there also were karate demonstrations and a Wii video game dance competition. Representatives of Americorps, the Healthy Maine Partnership and a PCHC dental office were on hand, along with a brain injury specialist, acupuncturist, and therapist.
“I’m getting really good feedback from teachers and the kids, who are learning even if they didn’t realize it,” school nurse Cathryn Sherman said.
“I think it’s great for students,” Wypyski said. “I’ve done everything and seen all the presentations. I learned a lot, and I think everyone else did, too.”