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PHAST Members Tackle Project
The PHAST club was out at Castleberg Park recently with a project to pick up cigarette butts that were discarded. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS
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These two young ladies, Krystin Hernandez and Yuliana Rivera, had their PHAST gear on and the tools to pick up cigarette butts at Castleberg Park. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

With the Halloween spirit in mind, the PHAST (Protecting Health And Slamming Tobacco) club at Riverbank High School recently organized a “Zombie Butt Hunt” at Castleberg Park just before Halloween. There were about 13 PHAST members that participated in the tobacco litter removal project at the park that lasted about two hours after school.

PHAST advisor and RHS Counselor, Maritza Alvarez and Counselor Mark Hernandez along with Stanislaus County Health Services Agency representatives set the students up with the tools needed to complete the task at the park on Oct. 30, including gloves, buckets, grabber tools, and some refreshments for their hard work. Alvarez has been the advisor for about four years.

“It turned out better than expected,” said Alvarez. “They gathered quite a few cigarette butts. I really hope it causes prevention among teenagers and awareness among adults.”

RHS senior and PHAST Co-President Breanna Carlos has been participating in the club for the past four years. She explained that it has been “eye-opening” being part of the club and was surprised at how many cigarette butts were found in the park. There are about 30 students in the PHAST club that meet twice a month.

This is RHS senior Andrea Ruiz’s first year in the PHAST club and she was glad to be a part of the clean-up project. She was glad to be a part of the effort at the park because it helps the environment.

“The students learned that a lot of people still smoke,” stated Alvarez. “Sadly, a lot were picked up near the playground which is where children play. It’s very unfortunate as second hand smoke is harmful as well.”

The students and advisors picked up several cigarette butts that were discarded all around the playground area, more than there were throughout the entire park.

The youth coalition participates in trips and projects that bring awareness of the dangers of tobacco use and promotes a nicotine-free lifestyle.

For the past two years senior Tawnie Denys has enjoyed the trips and projects that the club has to offer. She said she was delighted to be participating in the cleanup at Castleberg Park.

“The students enjoyed the community service and would like to do this again in the spring,” Alvarez added.