Texico graduate takes stand against smoking

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Texico graduate Jennifer Campos worked in tobacco prevention during the last three years by giving bilingual presentations about the harms of smoking cigarettes.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Texico 2010 graduate Jennifer Campos looks back on her freshman year of high school and feels regret.

“I’ve always like the saying ‘I don’t regret the things I did, I regret the things I didn’t do,’” Campos said. “That’s how I think about my freshman year.”

After three years of being active in an anti-tobacco program, she was named runner-up as the Teen Advocate of the Year. The award is given to a New Mexico student who uses creative thinking, problem solving and leadership in anti-tobacco programs.

As a freshman, Campos joined Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, which includes Students Concerned About Tobacco. But she didn’t join competitions or trips.

“I was just a member to say I was a member. My friends didn’t care what FCCLA was doing. After seeing all the work they did, I realized if I’m going to go somewhere, I shouldn’t follow my friends. I should get more involved.”

And she did. She joined FCCLA shy and quiet and quickly became coordinator of the anti-tobacco program and Linda Teakell’s go-to student.

Teakell works with anti-tobacco programs in various schools and isn’t stationed on campus. She said she was always able to count on Campos to help her organize the students.

Campos did bilingual presentations about the negative effects of smoking. She said she realized high school students can make a difference when she took part in a mentor program with fourth-graders.

“They were so glad to have us around and they cared about what we said. That’s when I realized how high school kids can have such a big effect,” Campos said.

Campos said she decided to campaign against tobacco because she knows many people who smoke.

“They think it’s harmless but it harms more people around them than they know,” she said.

Teakell nominated Campos for the award because she said her work has changed her. Teakell said Campos is a motivated, self-made and ethical teenager.

“Her work is what has garnered her statewide attention,” Teakell said.

Teakell said Campos makes anti-tobacco presentations to the populations that are at the highest risk. Teakell said that means the tobacco companies target Hispanics and Campos is fighting that.

Campos said Hispanics in the community are proud of her work.

“They tell me I’m a good representative for the Hispanic culture. I feel pressure because their eyes are on me. But that makes me want to set a better example. It makes me proud and it makes me want to be better and do more,” she said.

Campos will be studying psychology at Eastern New Mexico University.