Valparaiso University acquired a $200,000 grant from the Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission of the Indiana State Department of Health.

With this funding, Valparaiso University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions will continue their prominent role in implementing the objective of the Tobacco Education and Prevention Coalition for Porter County (TEPCPC) — building and maintaining strong community partnerships, promoting smoke free air, assisting smokers in quitting, and preventing youth and young adult initiation.

“This grant is a true reflection of the focus Valparaiso University students have on working to improve the health of the community,” said Mark L. Biermann, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “With this funding, students are empowered to advance their pursuit of a healthy, tobacco free community.”

According to Natalie Rivich, the project coordinator for the grant, the partnership with the College’s students began in 2000 under a funded project with Ball State University called Smokefree Indiana. The Student Nurses Association compiled data for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Survey and implemented on-campus awareness initiatives directed toward the reduction of smoking among young adults and the promotion of a smoke-free campus. These early efforts laid the foundation for the eventual adoption of a smoke-free campus by Valpo in 2008.

The College’s students continue to work with the TEPCPC on campus education projects. Their marketing efforts include increased outreach at freshman orientation, presentations in campus residence halls, promotion at Valpo athletic events and the display of Tobacco Free Valpo posters around campus.

Valpo’s collaboration with the TEPCPC extends beyond the Valpo campus. In 2006, the College’s students completed a surveillance study of the City of Valparaiso’s smoke free ordinance. In 2008, Kendre Israel ’08 interned with the TEPCPC and assisted in the development of Project Faith, a faith-led initiative to promote smoke-free policies and smoking cessation in collaboration with members of Porter County’s religious leadership.

More recently, Ryan Singh ’15 and Jeremy Getz ’15 were enlisted as interns to aid the TEPCPC with the promotion of coalition activities both on campus and in the greater Valparaiso community. Singh and Getz managed the Coalition’s website and social media with focus on smoking cessation and the Indiana Tobacco Quitline (1.800.Quit.Now). At the conclusion of Singh’s internship, he was asked to expand his role in relation to the Quitline service and was later hired full-time as program coordinator.

“I knew that hiring a Valpo grad was a win-win, but Ryan continues to impress me with his ability to adapt and learn so quickly,” Rivich said. “He has exceeded my expectations in every way.”

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