Volunteers Sought To Spread Cancer Awareness Message To New Brunswick-Area Youth

NEW BRUNWSICK – The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Office of Community Outreach is recruiting volunteers to deliver a cancer awareness and prevention curriculum to pre-teens and teens in the greater New Brunswick area.

The Cancer Awareness Youth Educator Badge Program, an innovative new curriculum made possible in partnership with Johnson & Johnson, aims to educate more than 600 children about the dangers of tobacco use and excess sun exposure and how they can reduce their cancer risk. Educator teams of two will engage in group activities with children aged 11 to 14, while using tailored lesson plans, visual aids and age-appropriate handouts designed by science and education experts at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and in the greater community. The Cancer Institute of New Jersey is a Center of Excellence of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Amanda Medina-Forrester, MA, MPH, a program development specialist at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey says it is critical to reach this age group. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and research shows that exposure to ultraviolet radiation as a child or teen can increase a person’s risk for developing skin cancer in adulthood. Cigarette smoking is the number one risk factor for lung cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 2010 New Jersey Youth Tobacco Survey indicated that 14 percent of high school students were smokers, with evidence suggesting that many of these students may have started tobacco use in middle school.

“It is during the middle school years where youngsters start to become more independent and start making their own decisions, some of which may put them at risk. Some of these decisions could be influenced by peer pressure or simply a lack of knowing the harms and effects of their actions,” she said. “Through this program, we can help equip young people with the information they need so that they can make better choices and learn to lead a cancer preventative lifestyle.” Medina-Forrester was part of the team that developed the “train-the-trainer” curriculum.

Interested members of the community who are 18 and older and currently work with middle-school-aged children are welcome to apply for the three-hour training session that will be held on Saturday, Feb. 23. Community organizations that are interested in delivering the program to their youth also are welcome to apply to serve as host sites. To learn more, contact Medina-Forrester at 1-732-235-9571 or at medinaay@umdnj.edu.

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