Dedicated Students Sacrifice Summer Vacation for Leadership Training

Twin Rivers Summer Institute

This past week Breathe California had the pleasure of working with the Youth Development Network and the Twin Rivers School District to bring peer education training to Friday Night Live groups at Twin Rivers high schools. Breathe's Youth Programs manager, Katie Cox, successfully initiated and facilitated the partnership.

The approach behind the summer peer education training is for high school students in Friday Night Live to provide tobacco education and prevention to their feeder school students in 6th – 8th grade. Research shows that peers influence youth’s health behaviors and that youth are more likely to listen to other youth regarding relevant life experiences and difficult topics. The Peer Education Program can help promote healthier norms for students that will attend their high school in the future.

Freshman, Sophomore and Junior high school students, as well as their Friday Night Live advisors, participated in a 3-day summer peer education training at Highlands High School. The students left the training with skills in facilitation, active listening, leadership, public speaking and presenting. Each student also received a certificate of completion.

On the second day, Breathe California’s resident tobacco expert, Kimberly Bankston-Lee facilitated an educational game on identifying types of tobacco and greater awareness of tobacco marketing strategies. Renata Atayeva and Frances Pimentel conducted an in-depth introduction to Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! (TUTD) as well as four practice sessions in TUTD movie reviewing featuring clips from movies with smoking around children, electronic devices and high incident rates of tobacco. Breathe California’s session concluded with a powerful presentation from Jonothan Polansky of On Beyond Consulting and Breathe California’s research partner in the TUTD data collection at UC San Francisco. Mr. Polansky emphasized the public health impact of the TUTD data and its potential to save millions of lives from tobacco-related diseases and death.

Twin Rivers Summer Institute

On the third day, students created their own heartfelt presentations about their personal experiences with tobacco and how it has made an impact on their lives. We look forward to following up with the student participants once the school year picks back up to see the difference they will make in their own schools and feeder schools.

This was Breathe California’s first time providing tobacco prevention, education & policy programming to the Twin Rivers Unified School District. It was our second time working with the Youth Development Network this year as Breathe California staff had recently graduated from their Cultural Relevancy Institute. Breathe California has a long history of working with Friday Night Live and its middle school counterpart, Club Live. The Friday Night Live youth program builds partnerships for positive and healthy youth development which engage youth as active leaders and resources in their communities.

Learn more about Breathe California’s tobacco prevention, education & policy programs.

Learn more about the Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down! program.

Browse the TUTD movie database.


  1. Friday Night Live

  2. Twin Rivers Unified School District

  3. Youth Development Network

Written by Design Communications Manager Frances Pimentel

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