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FOREST CITY | Forest City Middle School students received the Collaborator of the Year Award from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) for their passionate and dedicated service to the ACS CAN.

Linda Webner, ACS CAN ACT lead volunteer, and Steve Lovik, ACS senior community development manager, presented the middle school with the award.

“I want to thank Forest City Middle School so much for all that you do in the fight against cancer,” Lovik said. “You may not realize this, but Forest City Middle School is known throughout the state of Iowa for being a leader in service and in service in the fight against cancer.”

Additionally, Lovik was awarded the ACS Staff Partner Advocacy Champion of the Year award for outstanding support of advocacy and ACS CAN.

FCMS has held a Mini-Relay for Life event for the last nine years, raising more than $5,000 last year, according to Lovik. Additionally, FCMS is the only middle school in Iowa that annually hosts a Coaches vs. Cancer event and raises $1,000 each year of participation.

During Day at the Capitol, ACS CAN advocates meet with legislators to talk to them about “ACS CAN priorities that will reduce the burden of cancer in our state,” according to Angie Sylling, the Iowa grassroots manager for ACS CAN.

This year, the event was held on Feb. 6 and the focus was on tobacco prevention and control, in which advocates asked legislators to increase Iowa’s cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack with a parallel increase in other tobacco products tax, including e-cigarettes, and to increase funding for tobacco prevention and cessation services.

This was the third year FCMS participated in Day at the Capitol. However, due to snow and weather issues, they had to cancel their travel plans and instead virtually advocate with their legislators.

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The students who participated were eighth graders Andy Olson, Levi Olson and Kyra Gibbs for their second year and eighth grader Gage Juhl and seventh graders Sydney Nyguard and Brooke Olson for their first year.

“I will tell you that I hear more often than not the group that they will remember the most is you students because you just impact them,” Webner said. “It’s wonderful to know that the students are interested enough to make the effort to find out about the issues and then talk to them.”

Lovik said the students became involved with ACS when one of their students experienced cancer, and Principal Zach Dillavou contacted him about ways to educate the students about cancer, remove fears and misconception about it and learn how to fight back against it.

Now seventh grade teachers Mallory Ziesmer and Kari Olson lead the middle school in their efforts against cancer. Ziesmer is the Coaches vs. Cancer champion, and Olson is the Mini-Relay for Life champion.

Olson said a main component of the FCMS’s Mini-Relay for Life is education and ways to help prevent cancer, focusing on tobacco use prevention, sun safety and the importance of good nutrition, and now they are taking that education to the capitol.

“When we were invited to participate in Day at the Capitol three years ago, we witnessed firsthand the importance of working with Iowa lawmakers to do our part in this continued fight against cancer,” she said. “We know that our state representatives need to hear from their constituents regarding these important issues and are honored to be a part of such an important day.”

“I want to thank you for all that you do,” Lovik said. “You are saving lives. You are making a difference. And I am extremely proud of Forest City Middle School.”

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