Apr. 30 1998
Washington, DC - The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS today announced the national, regional and group winners of the 1998 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards, a competition that celebrates leadership and youth activism in tobacco control. The three-year-old awards program recognizes that kids are not just part of the problem -- they can be a powerful part of the solution. The CAMPAIGN encourages youngsters to get involved in tobacco control activities at the local, state and national levels. This year’s National Youth Advocate of the Year is Emily Broxterman, a 16-year-old 10th grader from Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kansas. Emily has successfully lobbied for and testified on a bill restricting youth access to tobacco products, and continues to lobby aggressively for tougher tobacco control laws. She has helped organize the annual STAR (Smoke-Free Teens Are Rising) rally and march on the capitol in Topeka, and has assisted other states in organizing youth tobacco control conferences modeled after the STAR program. Regional winners include: East: Michael Higgins, a 12-year-old 7th grader at Upper Pittsgrove School in Monroeville, New Jersey, successfully lobbied for a local ordinance to ban vending machines in restaurants and shops in his town. Michael counsels his peers on the dangers of tobacco use, and would like to see the enactment of national tobacco legislation that would save lives and jobs in tobacco-producing communities. Mid-West: Gretchen Sneegas, an 11-year-old 6th grader at New Augusta Middle School in Indianapolis, Indiana, mobilized young people from around the state to participate in a rally protesting the override of the governor’s veto of a bill that took away local governments’ right to restrict the sale of tobacco products. She testified before state legislators and argued for a state ban on cigarette vending machines. Central: Amanda Tunnell, a 16-year-old 10th grader at the Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, has helped ensure the passage of legislation to toughen enforcement of youth access to tobacco in her state. She is a member of the Smoke-Free Class of 2000 and works as a peer educator in her community. Amanda received the American Lung Association’s Dr. Edward R. Munnell Award for her work educating kids about the health risks of tobacco use. South: Deanna Durrett, a 16-year-old 10th grader at the Sacred Heart Academy in Louisville, Kentucky, has testified before the Kentucky House of Representatives’ Health and Welfare Committee and lobbied to gain support for stronger tobacco control policies in her state. She organized a rally on the steps of the state Capitol to teach other teens how to contact their legislators and lobby for tougher tobacco control laws, and is the first teen to serve on the Executive Board of the American Lung Association’s Kentucky chapter. She also visits elementary schools frequently, teaching children how to recognize lies in tobacco ads. West: Annie Aguilar, a 17-year-old 11th grader at Alhambra High School in Alhambra, California, testified before members of Congress on behalf of the Hispanic/Latino Tobacco Education Network about tobacco advertising targeted at young people in her community. Annie is a youth advisor for a local television station’s "Finding the Power Project," which is designed to help young people become better advocates. She is also president of the Keystone Nights Club, a teen community service program sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club. Annie has been a keynote speaker at numerous public anti-tobacco events. This year, for the first time, a Youth Advocates of the Year Group Award will be presented. The youth-led, New York City-based group S.H.O.C.K. (Saving the Health of Our Communities and Kids) Coalition is the first recipient. S.H.O.C.K., operated in partnership by the Brooklyn Diocese Drug Abuse Prevention Program and the New York State Youth Partnership for Health, has spearheaded many important tobacco control initiatives. Coalition members have testified at hearings and collected 4,200 signatures in an effort to pass the newly enacted Youth Protection Against Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act, a measure prohibiting tobacco advertising within 1,000 feet of any school, playground, or child care facility in New York City. S.H.O.C.K. has also orchestrated anti-tobacco letter-writing campaigns, counseled youngsters on the hazards of tobacco use, and encouraged local kids to become advocates in the fight against tobacco. The awardees will be honored for their tobacco control work at a gala at the National Building Museum on April 30 in Washington, D.C. Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, is honorary chairman of the event. S. Epatha Merkson, better known as Lt. Anita Van Buren, on NBC’s Law & Order, will serve as emcee. Each young winner will receive educational scholarships in recognition of their valuable contributions to tobacco control. In addition, each category winner will receive a grant to ensure that local efforts to educate kids about the dangers of tobacco use can continue. "These young people have accomplished a great deal," said Bill Novelli, CAMPAIGN president. "Their outstanding efforts to motivate their peers, mobilize legislators and prevent new generations from tobacco addiction are truly remarkable." A selection committee made up of representatives from national public health organizations reviewed the nominations and selected the winners, who were chosen based on their initiative, leadership abilities, creative thinking and problem solving skills, ability to communicate ideas effectively, and impact on state or local activities addressing youth access to tobacco. Last year’s national recipient, Anna Markee, a Tacoma, Washington resident, will attend this year’s gala award ceremony. She will be joined by Anna Santiago, of Highland Park, Illinois, the national winner from 1996 -- the first year Awards were given. In addition to the Awards, the CAMPAIGN sponsors Kick Butts Day, an annual event that involving thousands of young people in hundreds of tobacco control activities nationwide. The CAMPAIGN is further expanding its youth advocacy outreach by partnering with the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) in 12 pilot projects around the nation, in which PRSA members will teach young people the tools of public relations and advocacy to help them in their fight to keep America’s kids tobacco-free. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandates are to focus the nation’s attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children and make tobacco less accessible to kids. For more information about the Youth Advocates of the Year Awards and youth tobacco control advocacy, visit the CAMPAIGN’s web site at www.tobaccofreekids.org.