GRANT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL — Usually it’s the job of parents to warn their children about the risks of smoking, but for Santa Monica’s elementary students the roles have been reversed.
Fifth graders throughout the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District were offered the chance to compete in an art contest to raise awarness about City Hall’s recent anti-smoking ordinances.
The winner of the contest was announced Tuesday at Grant Elementary School with the selected artwork displayed on a Big Blue Bus to officially launch the “Smoking Doesn’t Belong Here” campaign.
Before announcing the winners, councilmembers Richard Bloom and Kevin McKeown spoke to the students, reminding them about the importance of the city’s anti-smoking laws.
“In places where people are smoking in public, we’ve decided that it’s just not OK,” Bloom told the attentive young crowd. “You’re going to be helping us to let the grownups know what they should be doing in public.”
Lauren Fleck, a student at Grant Elementary, won the contest with her drawing of Santa Monica as a smoke-free city.
“I wanted to show what our city looks like and all the best things about it and say not to damage it,” Lauren said.
Her drawing was chosen out of 100 submissions from six elementary schools by a panel of judges for her creativity, originality, neatness, written description and adherence to the rules. For winning first place, her design will become part of the city’s anti-smoking campaign, appearing on the side of Big Blue Bus transit coaches. Two other students from Grant Elementary, Antonio Lucero and Malana Felix, received honorable mention for their artwork and given plaques and tote bags for their efforts.
All three winners seemed to have taken to heart the theme of no smoking.
“I think [the anti-smoking campaign] is good because smoke really damages a lot beside just the person who’s smoking,” Lauren said.
Classmate and first-runner-up Malana echoed Lauren, saying that people help the Earth when they don’t smoke.
For winning, Lauren’s fifth grade class, taught by Shelley Smith, received a $500 donation to go toward the funding of the arts, which Grant Principal Alan Friedenberg said is important to help keep the arts thriving.
“At most schools, including Grant, we get no funding for the arts,” Friedenberg said. “We basically fund the classes that we offer for the kids.”
With the money, Smith said she hopes to buy more art supplies or host field trips for her students. She aknowledged the importance of the contest in helping her students “see that their artwork can actually make a difference in a community.”
This is exactly the message that Southard Communications, creators of Santa Monica’s anti-smoking marketing campaign, were trying to convey with this contest.
“The goal here is to engage the students to get the message out about non-smoking and to get the message out to parents about non smoking here in Santa Monica,” said Roxana Janka, vice president of Southard Communications.
Over the last several years, the city has passed a series of ordinances preventing smoking in outdoor public spaces, including the Third Street Promenade, the beach, outdoor dining areas and bars. The “Smoking Doesn’t Belong Here” campaign is an attempt to increase awareness about these laws through signs, advertisements and a Web site.
The art contest was just one part of the efforts aimed at educating children in hopes of reaching their parents and other community members.
“To me it’s inspiring that our kids find a voice through art to help grownups understand the importance of our no smoking laws,” McKeown said. “These kids will grow up healthier because of Santa Monica’s non-smoking ordinance.”