GREENVILLE — Two local teens are hoping to create awareness toward a problem they say has affected them and many of their peers at Greenville High School — vaping.
Sisters Chelsie Palethorpe, 14, and Katelyn Palethorpe, 15, are both freshman at the high school and are actively involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montcalm County program as “littles.”
Through that program, the pair have found support, comfort and guidance throughout their teenage years, and now they are hoping to take an initiative of their own by hosting a “Confronting the Vaping Epidemic” next week.
Beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday at Flo’s Ristorante & Pizzeria at 107 S. Lafayette St. in Greenville, pizza and drinks will be served while Chantel Olschanski of Cherry Health contributes as a guest speaker on the subject of vaping.
“The reason why we both chose this as a topic is because we are noticing that vaping is becoming an issue not just in Greenville, but everywhere, and kids are going into the hospitals and getting bad stuff in their lungs,” Chelsie said.
According to Chelsie, as recent as this year, she’s had at least one friend who was submitted to the hospital under emergency conditions as a result of using vape products.
“It was scary because I didn’t know what was really going on. I didn’t find out until the next day, and I just started flipping out, making sure that she was OK,” she said.
The sisters have never tried vaping themselves — in Michigan purchasing/possessing vapor products or using vapor products in a public place is illegal for persons younger than age 18 — however, they said they have been offered vaping multiple times.
“We want to teach not just kids, but adults, that vaping — it can destroy your life,” Chelsie said. “Really, you can have a brighter future than just being a bum and vaping and just wasting your money on that.”
From students allegedly smoking in the bathrooms to smelling of vaping products when they enter a classroom, the sisters say the problem reachers every corner of the school.
“When they get caught, they’ll hide it up in the bathroom ceilings or they are hiding it in their clothes or their shoes,” Katelyn said. “They are giving it to the other people, passing it off, and all the nicotine that gets into you, and how bad it is for your lungs — it ruins your whole life.”
The Palethorpes are working with High School Principal Michael Leiter to coincide with efforts the school is making, along with a anti-vaping task force at Greenville Public Schools, to attempt to stem the tide of vaping in the school.
According to Randy Posthumus, the Montcalm County caseworker for Mid Michigan Big Brothers Big Sisters, as part of receiving a grant from the Greenville Area Community Foundation, one stipulation was that the littles involved in the program pick the topic for which the grant would help fund.
“Obviously, we’re trying to convince the kids that it’s the wrong thing to do, and also giving the parents some knowledge what to look for when it comes to vaping,” Posthumus said. “From posters in the high schools to working to create this event, these girls have done an excellent job.”
In regards to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Montcalm County program, both Chelsie and Katelyn say they have benefited greatly over the years.
“If you don’t really have joy, in meeting someone, it can open up so many new gates for you to learn new things, and maybe even choose a new career that you want to do,” Chelsie said.
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