KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new smoking prevention program is reaching Knox County 5th graders during their after-school hours. The Metro Drug Coalition partnered with Shades of Development to kick off an important conversation about substance misuse.

As a part of the program, youth initiative coordinators visit after-school programs to teach about the dangers of smoking and vaping. One of these coordinators is Asheton Casey. She is teaching 5th graders the evidence-based curriculum, “Catch my Breath,” which has been proven to substantially reduce a student’s likelihood of vaping and has shown an increase in positive perceptions about choosing a vape-free lifestyle.

Casey says her presentations often lead to conversations about substance misuse within a child’s family and home. She also focuses on teaching students to use language that destigmatizes substance use disorders. In addition, the conversations taking place after school is believed to be crucial to a child’s positive development.

“Trying to reach students during that afterschool time when that’s a huge part of prevention is filling in kind of the gaps in the time when they are outside of the classroom,” said Casey.

The program is made up of four sessions. Casey has lead programs at Brickey-McCloud elementary and Powell Elementary. Her goal is to visit 10 to 15 after-school programs this school year.