Cecelia Schaefer, a student research assistant for Mavs for Clean Air, was recently awarded MVP Student Advocate this past month by the American Cancer Society.
Schaefer wants to someday become a high school health teacher in communities at-risk for youth and tobacco use.
Her passion to help people who smoke to stop smoking and advocating a tobacco-free environment started at her time at MNSU as she started doing more research as a Community Health Education major and in her position in Mavs for Clean Air.
Her work as a research assistant involves many things such as assisting with focus groups, recruiting people for events, helping organize events, and most importantly: advocacy.
One of her advocacy work was during one of the Health Science Department’s efforts to help raise awareness about tobacco use at MNSU in their event “Amplify Your Voice with Art”. During the event students used cigarette butts, products, and tobacco waste collected last spring around campus to create unique art pieces centering around addiction.
Because of this advocacy and many efforts like it, she was awarded MVP Student Advocate at the Tobacco Free Generation College Grantee workshop in Atlanta by the American Cancer Society. Schaefer had no idea she was nominated as they were only there as grant recipients. Nonetheless, she’s never felt more honored as the award reminds her the work she is doing matters.
Schaefer plans to continue this advocacy work as she is helping organize an event called “The Great American Smokeout” to be an outlet and provide resources to help motivate students, staff and faculty who are currently smokers to quit.
Schaefer said, “Mavs for Clean Air, we want to be there as support for people who struggle with smoking and vaping. Research shows, quitting smoking and vaping takes several tries, and the first step is the first try, so we want to show our support and offer resources for students to do that first try.”
Along with motivating smokers to take that first step, Schaefer also wants to bring awareness to MNSU’s current tobacco policy and encourage students to sign a petition for policy change.
“Right now, our policy is completely no tobacco, however there is no enforcement. I’m sure you’ve seen, some people outside the library smoke a cigarette, and have a security guard stare right at them and nothing is done, you can report this online, but nothing happens. What we want to do is get our task force to agree on enforcement, so we can have it written with exactly what we want to do so potentially we’ll have a deterrent for breaking our school policy,” said Schaefer.
At the event, there’ll be four activities, and students who participate in any one of them and sign the petition will get a free t-shirt.
Schaefer says policy change is the most important step to having a tobacco free place. “Policy change is important because research also shows that tobacco free environments at work or school are helpful for people struggling with nicotine addiction,” said Schaefer.
She continued, “Having a tobacco free place, it’s important for people who don’t smoke because obviously, the air is more clean. It’s important for people who do smoke because you’re less triggered by the smells, you’re less triggered by the butts, you’re less tempted to pick up a cigarette.”
The Great American Smokeout will be held Nov. 18-20. Students who can’t make it to the event but still want to sign the petition can do so online or at Student Health Services.