TUPE at Tam

By Lauren Felder

Like most other programs, Tamalpais High School’s Tobacco-Use Prevention Education (TUPE) task force dwindled during the COVID-19 quarantine and online school year. This spring, however, Spanish teacher Kelli McGiven and counselor Tyrone Robinson are finding a new team at Tam among students across all grades. 

Previously, when McGiven taught Peer Resource — an elective class that’s making a return under a new teacher next fall — TUPE was integrated into those students’ curriculum. 

“That was easier because I had a group of students that were already interested and invested in educating others on social issues … so right now I think the hard part is finding students that really want to do that work and are interested,” McGiven said. “[Substance abuse] can be a topic that may not be easy for all teens to discuss with their peers.”

Now, students interested in getting involved can anticipate twice-monthly tutorial meetings, ranging from 10 to 15 minutes to a whole period depending on what suits the group’s needs. This tutorial time will be primarily dedicated to preparing and practicing TUPE slideshows. These presentations will be given by students on the team to Tam’s ninth-grade social issues classes as well as middle schoolers at Mill Valley Middle School and Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy.

“I think TUPE is an important program at Tam because students have access to these types of products earlier and earlier, so it’s important to be able to inform them about the consequences it can have on them … people don’t really think about the long term,” junior and TUPE member Zoe Lyko said. 

Lauren Widdifield, another junior TUPE member, expanded upon the benefits of young people educating their peers on substance abuse. “Being close to the same age as the people you are teaching is beneficial because it’s more like advice from a friend … showing that there are other ways you can keep busy from first-hand experiences,” Widdifield said.

In addition to directed work time in tutorial meetings, TUPE members will have the opportunity to learn more about educating their peers and younger grades on a Feb. 8 field trip to the Marin County Office of Education. Spanning the full school day, this excursion invites high school peer educators to develop new communication strategies with their peers and the student population. County coordinators and TUPE peer educators are a few of the presently expected event guest speakers. 

As with the tutorial meetings, this field trip will count toward students’ community service hours. 

“Students will gain presentation skills, have time to practice presenting in groups, learn new facts about nicotine, tobacco, and THC; collaborate in site-specific teams to create mission statements to empower and enforce their work post-training,” an informational slide on the field trip explained during an introductory TUPE lunch meeting held on Jan. 31. 

TUPE at Tam operates under a harm-reduction model. 

“The idea is that we don’t tell anybody what to do or not to do. We just provide information to the community so they can make better…healthier choices,” McGiven said. “Because sometimes students are vaping, or they have a Juul, but they maybe don’t know how many cigarettes [are in that pod], how fast they’re going through it, or think it’s vapor not chemicals in a vape pen … so I think it’s really about providing the community with more accurate information so they can make those healthier choices.”

To get involved with TUPE, email McGiven at [email protected] or drop by Room 200 with your interest. “Being a TUPE student representative is low commitment, high reward,” McGiven said.