Kern County Superintendent of Schools' -- in partnership with 17 local school districts -- has received more than $1 million grant to help steer our junior high and high school kids away from tobacco.

The Kern consortium was awarded one of just nine Tobacco-Use Prevention Education Tier II grants for grades six through 12 education in California. Only Los Angeles County of Education was awarded more.

The funding will allow the school districts, with the help of the American Lung Association, to reach out to local youth with evidence-based tobacco-use prevention, intervention and cessation programs, said Daryl Thiesen, prevention programs coordinator with KCSOS' School-Community Partnerships

Strategies include raising awareness on the effects of tobacco use, providing resistance skills and decision making skills, and promoting positive youth development activities.

The consortium includes some of the smaller school districts in Kern, with Rosedale Union, Fruitvale and Sierra Sands Unified school districts being the largest of the 17. Those districts may not have ample full-time counselors or nurses to teach their students about tobacco prevention. The larger Kern school districts, like Kern High School District, apply for similar grant funding on their own.

Besides tobacco education, the funding will support peer-led programs that focus on tobacco-use prevention such as Friday Night Lights and Great American Smokeout.

School officials also aim to reach out to parents with grant funding.

"Sometimes it's all about the role modeling and limit-setting parents are able to do," Thiesen said.

-- Jorge Barrientos, Californian staff