On Wednesday, February 4, students from Highland’s Social Justice and AP Biology classes participated in National Cancer Prevention Day events on Capitol Hill in the Caucus Room of The Cannon House Office Building. The program, founded by Bill Couzens, Founder and President of the Next Generation Choices Foundation and Less Cancer campaign, included several notable authors, journalists, scientists, public policy advocates, and congressional representatives. These included Margaret I. Cuomo, MD, author of A World Without Cancer, Congressmen Dent (PA), Beyer (VA), and Israel (NY), Congresswoman Dingell (MI), and David Katz, MD, Founding Director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Click here for a full schedule and list of speakers: http://www.lesscancer.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/LC-Cancer-PrevProgram_PrintRev2.pdf
As the sole high school group among the 250+ participants, Highland was in the company of students from UVA’s graduate nursing program, and Georgetown, American and George Washington public health graduate students. The field trip provided an outstanding opportunity for students to witness first-hand the application of principles and knowledge learned in class. The event allowed Social Justice students to participate in a model and process that links grassroots advocacy with higher education, the scientific community, business, public policy, regulation and law. Social Justice student Mary Lib Minter remarked, “A takeaway for me was the importance of a model of prevention, in addition to treatment, in alleviating not only disease, but also other social issues, like poverty. It’s important to provide care for those with immediate needs, but what we should also do is take measures to prevent more people from falling into these circumstances.”
AP Biology students had the opportunity to hear about cutting edge research from professionals in genetics, epidemiology, chemistry, oncology, radiology, public health, and cancer treatment and prevention researchers. “I found the information about testing for genetic markers [for breast and ovarian cancer] and the discussion about the impact of lifestyle changes on cancer promoting and suppressing genes interesting and relevant to our class’ study of DNA and genetics,” noted AP Biology student Ann Collins. Leslie Ziegler, Highland’s AP Biology teacher remarked, “This experience illuminated for students other avenues that they can explore for future careers, and demonstrated that there are many different ways they can contribute to the science of cancer prevention and treatment.”
In addition to incredible hospitality, each student received a copy of Margaret Cuomo’s book, and had the opportunity to interact with the distinguished speakers. “This trip was a great example of Highland supporting opportunities for students to connect classroom learning with real world experiences and issues, professional mentors, and current developments in academic fields of interest. We’re grateful for the invitation from Mr. Couzens and his organization to participate in this important national event,” said Megan Catalfamo, Director of Experiential and Service Learning.
Students took to heart the challenge from several speakers to the “young people in the audience” to spread the message of National Cancer Prevention Day beyond the walls of the Caucus Room and to finish the job started by the adults in the room. Mary Catherine Treuting, a student in the Social Justice class, is doing so by leading a “Tan Less, Shine More” campaign, in partnership with LessCancer.org, to encourage teens to commit to not using tanning booths before prom or ever. She was inspired by John Groopman, MD, Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Associate Director for Cancer Prevention and Control in the School of Medicine, at whose table she sat during the program. Despite laws in some states restricting teens from using tanning beds and requiring health risk warnings on tanning devices, teen usage of tanning booths increases dramatically during prom season. “Find a problem to solve and be willing to commit decades of your life working on it,” Groopman asserted during his talk on the panel.
The field trip to DC was followed up by a visit to the Social Justice by LessCancer.org founder Bill Couzens who enriched their discussions of engaged citizenship, community, and issue impact. Mr. Couzens advised students to, “Find an itch and scratch it. Figure out what you want to change about your community and why. Then identify one small step you can take today to advance that change.”
About Less Cancer: “Since 2004, the Next Generation Choices Foundation has conducted its Less Cancer campaign to bring awareness to increasing incidences of cancer. A nonprofit organization rooted in the Web and social media, and dedicated to cancer education and prevention, Less Cancer educates citizens about behavioral and environmental risks linked to cancer. Less Cancer presents new opportunities to reach individuals and communities.” To learn more about National Cancer Prevention Day, visit www.lesscancer.org
After the National Day of Cancer Prevention program, students stop for a photo in the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building.
AP Biology and Social Justice students in the Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building.
On February 10, Bill Couzens, founder of LessCancer.org, visited Highland’s Social Justice class to share his experiences and lessons learned while advancing his organization’s mission.