B-9 Task Force, American Cancer Society

Daily Point of Light # 1087 Apr 3, 1998

The B-9 Task Force is an American Cancer Society-sponsored high school student organization that provides cancer prevention education programs to local elementary school students. The B-9 program, which stands for "benign,” has been recognized for its outstanding work educating children about the dangers of tobacco use, the importance of good nutrition and skin cancer awareness.

Armed with colorful American Cancer Society youth educational materials, six local high schools currently sponsor B-9 groups. B-9 participants are trained by volunteers from the American Cancer Society and the Toastmasters to speak to other school age children regarding key health issues. Participants present informative programs to thousands of kids each year, developing their public speaking skills as they enhance their science education.

Gerry Marx, a nationally recognized public speaker and member of the American Cancer Society, founded the B-9 program in response to the American Cancer Society's desire to reach young people in 1990. Mr. Marx felt the best way to reach young people is peer to peer.

Originally tested in a local high school, the pilot program involved 12 to 14 volunteers from a local high school, predominantly from science majors, who presented the information to local elementary school students in efforts to reach the children before they started smoking. Building on the success of the pilot program, the program grew to reach more than 8,000 students at more than 80 elementary schools. Teachers have reported that the elementary school students who hear presentations from the older students tend to get more from the student's presentations than from an adult's.

The program has been replicated in northern Colorado and calls come in regularly to receive information on how to start a B-9 program.