Jefferson students send ‘Swarm of Bees’ to Obama

Skye Kinkade
Jefferson student Ricky Loader works on poetry and postcards to be mailed to President Obama in a “Swarm of Bees.”

President Obama and countless mail carriers and White House staffers will soon be visited by a “swarm of bees” handcrafted by Jefferson High School students.

The art project, facilitated by Jill Gardner and the Siskiyou Arts Bus was funded through a Tobacco Use Prevention Education grant and the Siskiyou County Office of Education.

Jefferson students Uriel Avila, Marcos Frenandez, Amber Silver, Terrel Arnold. April Williams, Michael Harris-Lopez, Ricky Loader, Scott Spaulding, Toketee Radabaugh each created postcards which illustrate that they intend to be strong, be free, be healthy, be unique, be courage, be peaceful, be true – and be smoke/tobacco free, Gardner explained.

These messages to Obama (and some to Oprah and Bill Clinton) will be on display at the County Office of Education in Yreka though September 30. The originals have already entered the US Postal system.

“They have been sent through the mail as a buzzing message of hope and strength, the vibrant voice of youth... We want [President Obama] to know we exist over here in Siskiyou County. We want him to know we are a Swarm of Bees,” said Gardner.

As part of the project, the students also worked with poetry as a means of playing with identity, Gardner said.

“The goal was to learn how to use imagery to describe ourselves, to discover and reveal our strengths, our super powers, and what we can say ‘yes’ to, what we can replace the urge to smoke with, what we can be instead of self-destructive.”

The class drew bees, made hand-cut stamps of bees and well as personal logos. They then printed them on postcards with block printing ink and  added “be statements.” Some students wrote lines from their poems on the postcards, and the group made a large poster, which is now on display at the COE.

“Some of the students wondered if the President will even get this message,” Gardner said. “I believe that we will be heard. I believe that because there are 50 plus handmade postcards in our colorful swarm that we will not be ignored. Our message is cool, it’s hand made, and it will be a bright spot in the day of whoever comes in contact with it.”

Through the program, the teens learned several facts about the dangers of tobacco, including:

• Smoking kills more Americans each year than alcohol, cocaine, crack, heroine, homicide, suicide, car accidents, fires and AIDS combined.

• Every 10 seconds someone in the world dies of a smoking related disease.

• Of the 3,000 teenagers who start smoking today, 23 will be murdered, 30 will die in traffic accidents and 750 will die of smoking related disease.

• Tobacco products are the only legal consumer products that are harmful when used as directed.

• Ninety percent of all tobacco users start before the age of 18

• Scientists have found that nicotine is as addictive as heroine, cocaine and amphetamines

• Pack a day smokers deposit one quart of coal tar in their lungs each year.

• Women aged 20 to 39 who smoke have twice the chance of losing all their teeth as non-smoking women.

• It takes 25 years for a cigarette to decompose.

Jefferson High School students sent more than 50 hand-crafted postcards to President Obama in a “Swarm of Bees” which talk about what they can “be” other than self destructive and addicted to tobacco.