February 9, 2007
By STEVEN GOODE, Courant Staff Writer
They aren't slick or professional-looking, but they weren't meant to be.
The six anti-smoking billboards were designed by young Hartford residents and intended to reach young people with a simple, succinct message: Smoking can kill you.
The billboards' creators, who range in age from 11 to 22, began working on them in November as part of an activity sponsored by the Community Renewal Team and Youth Artisan and Technology Program, funded by a grant from the state Department of Public Health.
Before the two-dozen participants could start the design work, they studied the dangers of smoking and chewing tobacco, and discussed the effects.
"When you're designing something from the heart you have to believe in it," said Joe Young, director of the Youth Artisan and Technology Program Thursday following the unveiling of the winning billboard at the corner of Maple Avenue and Brown Street.
Franklin Morales, a 15-year-old Weaver High School student, said the pictures really brought the message home to him. Morales, whose depiction of a healthy lung and a sickly lung took first place, said the idea came to him quickly.
"When you think of smoking, you think of lungs. That was the first thing that came to my mind," he said.
Organizers of the program are hopeful that its participants take that message home to their friends and families and that the billboards do the same in Hartford and beyond.
"If these are images that speak to teens, then they should be useful in other areas," said Nancy Pappas, director of external affairs planning for CRT.
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez agreed.
"It's important to change the way we communicate with young people. The best way is to let young people communicate the message," Perez said.
And they may not be done yet. Organizers have begun to consider other public health topics, such as an anti-violence or anti-alcohol campaign.
Morales said he's willing to try another billboard, but right now he'd like to spend a few moments showing off his work.
"I want to show it to my mom," he said.
The other billboards, listed by their artists, can be viewed at the following locations:
Shanesha Rowe, 17, at 3670 Main St; Spencer Pitt, 22, at 392-394 New Britain Ave.; Luis Morales, 11, and Anthony Acquaotta, 16, at 25 New Britain Ave.; Jonathan Echevarria, 16, at 433 Zion St.; and Carlos Ortiz, 16 at 714 Albany Ave.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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