On Wednesday, June 19, Community School District 20 middle school students gathered at MCU Park in Coney Island to “Escape the Vape.” The schools brought bands, cheerleaders and flags to the arena where students and staff were entertained while listening to speakers explain how dangerous vaping can be.
MCU Park was closed for the day so that the predominantly sixth and seventh grade middle school students would have the opportunity to learn about the harmful effects of vaping and smoking.
The event began at 9:30 a.m. as students arrived at the field. Entertainer Guy Zoda, better known as King Henry, was there, and the Dyker Heights Intermediate School band played “The Star Spangled Banner” before the Ditmas I.S. 62 cheerleaders took to the stage to entertain the audience.
District 20 Superintendent Karina Costantino spoke at the event and promoted the notion that vaping is just as dangerous as smoking. To that point, the students and staff heard a series of talks from a variety of anti-vape experts . . . including a robot.
Michael Davoli from the American Cancer Society said that vaping was poison and just as harmful as smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Also speaking about the effects of vaping were New York City Department of Health experts Joel Bhuiyan, Jessica Ingram-Bellamy, Elyse Mallin, Jonathan Thornton, Nicole Miller, Abdul Usman and Deidre Sully.
Activities included a mascot race from first base to third in which students participated, and performances from the cheerleaders and marching bands. The event ended at approximately 1 p.m. with closing remarks from King Henry.
McKinley Principal Janice Geary was delighted with what the rally represented.
“The rally, initiated by our Community School District 20 Superintendent Costantino, was spearheaded by a team of McKinley’s talented staff and students, who shared their vision with neighboring middle schools to make it happen. It was a great district effort to get the message out there: it’s wise to ‘Escape the Vape.’ We celebrated life-long learning and promoted good health for everyone,” said Geary.
McKinley seventh-grade student Farwa Tashin felt that the event was extremely worthwhile. “’Escape the Vape’ emphasized the dangers of vaping. I learned that vaping is worse than smoking. Long-term vaping can affect our health later on in life,” said Tashin.
Yuxin Wang, another seventh grader, said that the speakers made a great impression upon her. “Through this event I learned that smoking and vaping isn’t good for you, and that while it may seem cool, it’s really not,” she said.Yet another seventh grader, Ivan Ignatov, felt the message was delivered clearly. “It was a great event that helped educate our schools about vaping and its negative consequences, so that we know to avoid it at all costs,” he told this paper.