Delaware: Teens Aim High to Reach Peers About AIDS

At Smyrna High School, the Healthy Lifestyles Team (HLT) spent the school year campaigning against AIDS with speeches, a television commercial, posters and a free concert. The group received a $10,000 Delaware Foundation grant for the efforts, said school nurse Susan Broome, one of three HLT staff advisors.

At the start of the school year, team members surveyed students, asking them to name the top health issue on their minds. A majority picked HIV/AIDS, said Paul Lowry, a 17-year-old senior. At the time, Broome was not sure whether school administrators would allow HLT to address the issue. Principal Buddy Lloyd and Superintendent Deborah Wicks not only permitted it but also became enthusiastic supporters, said Broome.

Students first had to research HIV/AIDS, said Matthew O'Neal, a senior. "We used the Internet and we worked with the state division of Public Health, which gave us a good amount of information," he said.

"We were in Wilmington at a community meeting recently, and you could just see the excitement the kids have for the project and the excitement in the community," said Sandi Voss, who is an HLT advisor along with journalism teacher Jovanna Dodge.

The goal of HLT's "Could I? Should I?" campaign theme is to make teens think before having sex. From the beginning, students decided to use every means to spread their message about abstinence and the need to make good decisions.

"The team made posters and the students wrote an article once a week for the local newspaper about it as well as articles in the school paper," said Broome. A television commercial the students produced was aired on a local cable channel in March. The cable provider continues to use the commercial as a public service announcement. "That speaks to the quality of their work," said Lloyd.