Four Daniel Boone Area High School students recently traveled to the state capitol as a part of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s Day at the Capitol.
During this visit, the students — Zach Whitney, Sara Hojnowski, Emily Scheuring, and Diego Santos — had the chance to meet with state legislators about cancer-related issues such as tobacco taxes and the clean indoor air law.
The students are a part of Daniel Boone’s Relay For Life team. They met with members of the Cancer Action Network during the combined relay efforts.
“We encourage folks to become members,” said Diane Phillips, government relations director for CAN. She explained how the network is the advocacy affiliate of ACS and the Day at the Capitol is their dedicated annual advocacy day.
To help the effort, the students took things into their own hands – recruiting 139 individuals to join the network.
“It was truly their efforts that brought them to our attention,” said Phillips, crediting the students’ enthusiasm for the connection that’s formed. “They expressed an interest in being politically active.”
The visit to Harrisburg was a way to recognize the students for their efforts.
“They’re an exemplary group of students,” said ACS Pennsylvania Grassroots Manager Emma Watson. “They have gone above and beyond; we were honored to have them as a part of our day.”
Diego Santos, a junior at the high school, has been a part of Daniel Boone’s Relay for Life since 8th grade. This year he decided to take on a more involved role of chairing for Mission and Advocacy alongside his friend Andrew Baer, a senior.
Santos says he wanted to be a part of something that would make an impact.
“As co-chair, throughout my entire junior year, I worked to promote ACS CAN and raise awareness for cancer prevention programs and the legislation that coincides with it,” said Santos. “As chairs, Andrew and I are in charge of letting everyone know why we fight.”
He explained how the recruitment of ACS CAN members grew as groups held bingo games, in addition to other promotions.
“Throughout the year, Andrew and I would present Mission Moments at RFL Team Rallies and promote ACS CAN,” said Santos. “At our event, we told everyone who came into the Mission Tent what ACS CAN was and where the $10 toward membership was going to. Ultimately, it was the passion and commitment of our entire school and community to eliminate cancer that helped us succeed.”
The trip to Harrisburg was an eye-opening experience for the students, and Santos says he learned a great deal about what ACS CAN does for cancer research and prevention.
“I think we, as students, made an impact during our meetings with state legislators,” he said. “We were advocating for a higher tobacco tax and closing all the loopholes in the Clean Indoor Air Act. I got a firsthand look into what advocates for cancer elimination do every day so no one else has to hear the words ‘You have cancer.’”
Throughout the whole experience with ACS CAN, Santos says he learned that everything that ACS CAN does is one step closer to a cure.
“I saw so many caring and selfless people volunteer their time in an effort to give more time to those suffering from cancer. I will definitely be back next year at Day at the Capitol and will continue advocating for a cancer-free world.” Santos hopes more students will join the fight. “I think it’s very important because we are the next generation to be affected. The decisions that legislators make today are directly affecting us as students and young adults.”