By Dawnita Fogleman

Staff Writer

Kick Butts Day is not a day to consider violence on the bully down the road. Kick Butts Day is about kicking a tobacco habit, hopefully before it even starts. 

Maria Guel-Rodriguez has only been the new Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Healthy Living Program Wellness Coordinator with the Woodward County Health Department since November 2018 but she has some big hopes and plans for helping youth in the community.

Helping children overcome destructive and unhealthy lifestyles is a subject that is really close to Guel-Rodriguez’s heart. Having come from a broken home of substance abuse and domestic violence, she knows how hard it is for kids to make decisions different from the family they are growing up with.

“I had that teacher that said, ‘You're smart.’ I had that teacher that said, ‘You're good enough.’ And that's what it took for me to know that there was something beyond those doors. And that's all that I would ever hold on to,” Guel-Rodriguez said.

Guel-Rodriguez said she came to a conclusion that she didn’t want to live that way. She made up her mind and chose not to. 

“There is a way to show them that there is something past whatever they're going through,” Guel-Rodriguez said. “Sometimes we have to take it in a different avenue.”

Guel-Rodriguez stressed working on young people’s self esteem and self worth. She said providing a place for them to receive that and to share some of their issues is a way to give youth hope. 

TSET’s focus is helping in eating healthier, moving more and being tobacco free, according to Guel-Rodriguez.

National Kick Butts Day’s purpose is to empower youth to stand out and speak up against big tobacco, according to Guel-Rodriguez.

On Wednesday, March 20 Guel-Rodriguez will be hosting Kick Butts Day for the kids at the Woodward Public Library. Beginning at 10 a.m. she will have interactive displays, activities and incentive giveaways for the youth until 1 p.m.

One of the displays will concentrate on showing how many tobacco products are packaged to look like candy, but are very bad for your health. She will also be addressing vaping and how it still has the same contents of a cigarette.

“Kids think that because cigarettes have flavor they're not as dangerous as your regular cigarettes,” Guel-Rodriguez explained. “I would like for the kids to be aware that just because something looks like candy, it doesn't mean that it's not tobacco, and it is addictive. And it and it still has nicotine in it. And just basically, my whole thing is, don't start, right. I would like to, for them to, to look at that. And then there's so many ingredients that are and that's like, shocking, of how many like unhealthy ingredients go into making a cigarette.”

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 12.5 percent of Oklahoma high school students smoke, up from the 8.1 percent nation wide. Oklahoma’s health care costs caused directly by smoking is $1.62 billion each year.

For more information about Kick Butts Day or the TSET program, call Maria Guel-Rodriguez at 580-256-6416.