Oak Creek Corey Snyder is taking on one of the biggest challenges of her life: fighting the big tobacco companies who she said prey on teenagers.
Snyder, a Soroco Middle School student, is one of two South Routt youths working to spread the message about the dangers of tobacco use and the prevalence of teen-focused tobacco marketing in the mainstream media.
"I am trying to tell (tobacco companies) to butt out of our lives, because they target us," she said. "I see a lot of kids my age smoking. It concerns me, because it's a bad habit."
Snyder is a member of Colo--rado's Get R!EAL youth movement, an organization that aims to unite Colorado youths who are dedicated to battling companies that entice children with cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Get R!EAL stands for "Resist! Expose Advertising Lies."
Sandy Visnack, director of Routt County's Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said the local Get R!EAL chapter started last fall in South Routt because Snyder and other students were more interested in the program than youths elsewhere in Routt County.
"The Soroco kids were the most into it. They thought they needed this type of program in their community. It was a great fit," Visnack said.
Visnack said most people are surprised to learn that many children in Routt, Moffat and Grand counties begin smoking at age 13. Nearly 40 percent of high school students reportedly smoke cigarettes.
"We absolutely have tobacco issues in our community, especially in South Routt. They have chewing tobacco issues," she said.
One of the advantages of the program is that is almost totally student driven, Visnack said.
"This is totally a youth empowerment thing. We empower them and let them lead their coalition," she said.
Visnack said the program is the first of its kind in Routt County, although Moffat County has had a Get R!EAL coalition for several years.
The program's coordinator, Colleen Lyon, gave a presentation to area middle and high schools and began the coalition where she got the most interest, Visnack said.
Snyder said she and fellow Get R!EAL member Alex Smith are the only local teens still active in the coalition. They hope more of their friends and classmates will get involved in the future.
"I was surprised more students didn't want to do it. There were a lot of people who seemed interested and dropped out," she said. "If I had the help, I'd like to do a big program on tobacco awareness in (Oak Creek).
Snyder recently attended a statewide event where more than 250 Get R!EAL advocates held a march, rally and press conference on the Auraria Campus in Denver. Snyder also raced a Get R!EAL soap box derby car in the June 10 Steamboat Springs Rotary Soap Box Derby in Oak Creek in hopes of spreading her message.
To her surprise, Snyder won second place.
Snyder plans to coordinate programs throughout the year to help her peers and other community members understand that smoking and chewing is preventable.
"People think it's cool. It's not," she said. "Both my parents smoke, and it makes me mad."
Kim Snyder, Corey's mom, said she is proud her daughter has taken the initiative to help her community kick the habit.
"I'm very proud of her. I'm glad she's involved in this. It's important that we do anything we can to keep our kids off drugs and alcohol," she said.
-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org