The students at Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish got a graphic look at the effects of unhealthy lifestyles as they looked over a table filled with human organs. Registered nurse Kathy Ketchum explained what they were seeing, saying "This is lung cancer. This is an alcoholic liver."
The program is called "Inside Out: The Original Organ Show". Students said it goes beyond their traditional health class in driving home the consequences of bad choices.
"You hear it and you kind of believe it. But it doesn't really set in, like the belief of it, until you see it in your hands, like, this could be me if I did those things," said student participant Jared Bartsch.
Registered nurse Kathy Ketchum, of Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, created the program.
"I've been a nurse for almost 35 years. I've watched people that have made themselves sick. And they did it at their own hands. By watching that over and over I thought, in the medical field we can do better," she explained.
Ketchum said students are respectful of the learning materials, which were donated by victims' families.
"They donated their organs so young people could see the mistakes they made. They're awesome gifts," she said.
Ketchum calls herself a flea kicking the elephant as she combats marketing such as tobacco ads.
Holding up a set of smokers lungs she told students, "This is his lungs. It looks like a dirty rotten sponge."
Ketchum's program packs lessons on everything from drug abuse, to high cholesterol, to seat belt safety into an hour. Some of the stories bring personal pain. She remembered a young friend who died of a prescription drug overdose.
"This is my neighbor kid. Bless his heart," she said, holding up his photograph.
Students come away from the program with new determination to resist peer pressure.
"I won't ever smoke or drink, because I don't want to end up like that," said student Mackenzie Vanderwall.
Ketchum said the class has inspired thousands of letters from students. She's hoping to bring the message to many more.
"They're going to be empowered today to make the right choices. But it's ultimately their choice," she said.
Middle and high schools in Snohomish County can book the presentation for free. It is being offered by Providence Regional Foundation and the Tulalip Tribes. The program's sponsors are still signing up more Snohomish County school visits.