Lauren McClendon, Tobacco Education Coordinator
Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition
Q: What is the mission of your organization?
A: Reducing the burden of cancer for Northwest Georgians by providing prevention and education programs, improving access to early detection and screenings, and promoting quality and excellence in cancer care
Q. What is your primary role and how does it fit into the organizational mission?
A. My primary role is related to dissemination of tobacco education materials. This takes place through educational presentations including Tar Wars to students of all ages, as well as providing smoking cessation classes to the general population. Lung cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer and has a stronghold on the Northwest Georgia area. Since the use of tobacco products greatly increases one’s risk for lung cancer, my job provides ways to help individuals quit using these products before it is too late, or before they even start in the first place.
Q. What is a favorite story/quote that you have related to your job?
A. My first time doing Tar Wars was at a very small, very rural elementary school. My first time doing Tar Wars was at a very small, very rural elementary school. After I finished a young boy came up to me and said “Miss, I am NEVER EVER, EVER smoking, and I’m gonna make everyone I know not smoke too!!!” He was so excited about the material that it made me realize what a positive impact my position could have.
Q. Are there any trends that you are seeing in your community, either positive and/or negative?
A. We are seeing a downtrend in the use of tobacco products, which is definitely positive! However, after COVID it has been more difficult to get people to sign up for in-person cessation classes. I know how helpful these can be to the success of someone’s cessation journey, so I hope moving forward we can get back into the swing of things.
Q. How do the Tar Wars resources help you with your mission?
A. I could not do my job without Tar Wars! It is the main resource I use to speak with elementary school students. I love how interactive the presentation is, and the students seem to really enjoy the crossword puzzles and getting to ask questions.
Q. Based on your experience, what are some ways that community organizations can work together to improve the overall health of students in Georgia?
A. Right now, we are the only Cancer Coalition that has tobacco education as a part of their mission. I would love to see roles like mine expanded to a larger population. I would also love to see Tar Wars in as many schools as possible, and I think a great way to do that is to have organizations gain a better understanding of the burden that tobacco products are placing on their communities and place an emphasis on spreading that knowledge.
Q. What is your favorite movie of all time?
A. The Lego Movie! I know that sounds like I’m 5, but it has such a positive message about thinking outside the box (not to mention the songs are catchy!).
Q. If someone were to visit your community, what are some “can’t miss” restaurants and other things to see and do?
A. Harvest Moon Cafe and Aventine are absolutely the best restaurants in Rome, and Honeymoon Bakery has been featured on Food Network multiple times for their sweet treats! You also can’t pass up the opportunity to visit the beautiful campus of Berry College, where many movies have been filmed.
Q. Outside of work, what hobbies do you enjoy?
A. I love to hike the trails around town, read, and travel! I am getting married soon and am excited that my honeymoon will be my first out of country travel since before COVID.
Q. What is the best concert you’ve ever been attended?
A. Shania Twain! I was 10 years old and knew the words to every single song!
Want to bring Tar Wars to students in your community? Reach out to Abbey Carr at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to plug in.