On Wednesday, February 7, NHS students joined Rhett Genung, NHS At-Risk Coordinator, and attended Legislative Day in the Empire State Plaza’s Capitol Building and Concourse. During Legislative Day, NHS Reality Check (RC) students got a unique and personal opportunity to speak, meet and educate lawmakers on the value of New York State Tobacco Control Programs (TCPs) and the ever-increasing support for tobacco-control policies at the local level. They were extremely honored and fortunate enough to meet with Assemblymen Cliff Crouch, Senator Seward and Senator Fred Akshar.
After the financial collapse of 2008, Reality Check state funding has been cut from 200 million to only 39 million dollars for the statewide Reality Check Program. NHS RC students were able to speak about their Norwich Chenango County program and express the need for more funding to their representatives. They also talked about their local RC program goals. RC students are striving to bring about positive community change through grassroots mobilization and education. RC students also want to empower their peers and other youth so that they are “more than just the replacement smokers” for the tobacco industry. They were also invited, and introduced by name by Assemblymen Cliff Crouch on the senate floor while they were in session. Reality Check student James Waymen said, "It was a fantastic feeling to be recognized. We did not expect this, and I think we all nearly fainted”. While they were in session, they got to hear a bill being passed to recognize NYS as a Purple Heart state. This motion was approved! Rhett Genung explained the experience, "I was very proud of my students and I found myself getting very emotional watching them interact with their state representatives. My students were inspired by this experience and this has enriched their lives. They were in awe over the State Capitol." Congratulations to the Reality Check students for participating in this extraordinary event!