Our Youth Advocates of the Year Awards honor top young leaders from across the country — individuals who have fought hard to promote tobacco prevention legislation, expose tobacco marketing to kids and keep peers from using tobacco.
The 2015 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards were presented on May 14, 2015 in Washington, DC, at our Youth Advocates of the Year Awards Gala.
Carson City, Nevada
Spencer created the Statewide Youth Coalition, Nevada’s first youth group advocating for public policies to reduce tobacco use. He also serves as president of Students Taking on Prevention, or S.T.O.P., his local youth health organization.
Spencer and his youth coalition are advocating for several bills before the state Legislature to increase the cigarette tax, tax e-cigarettes and prohibit smoking in cars with children. He has testified twice before legislative committees this year.
Before the legislative session, Spencer spearheaded a youth advocacy summit that trained 40 youth about the legislative process, tobacco control, and social and policy change – and built a strong, coordinated team to advocate for change. In addition to being a leader himself, Spencer is fostering the next generation of youth leadership in Nevada.
Before his statewide efforts, Spencer got his county to adopt a smoke-free parks policy. He was our 2014 West Region Youth Advocate of the Year.
Growing up with a learning disability, Spencer was motivated to get involved in tobacco control because of the tobacco industry’s targeting of kids and other vulnerable populations. He is passionate about fighting tobacco use – and the tobacco industry – as a social justice issue.
Ana Karen Cendejas Esperano, 18; Ellen Kaufman, 16; Ezinna Ohaya, 17; Nestor Montejo, 18
Evolvement Denver brings together youth advocates who are working to stop illegal tobacco sales to kids and prevent youth tobacco use by promoting a tobacco retail license ordinance in Denver. Colorado is currently one of only 14 states that do not require retailers to obtain a license to sell tobacco products, making it harder to prevent sales to minors.
Through the Licensed to Sell Tobacco (L2ST) Initiative, Evolvement youth activists have educated Denver citizens about tobacco retail licensing and garnered their support for the cause.
Evolvement youth recently surveyed more than 5,000 Denver citizens and found that 80 percent favored requiring tobacco retailers to be licensed. The youth also attended more than 40 community events where they collected over 4,500 hand-written messages of support, which they posted on social media and will present to the City Council. They gained the support of a City Councilman who is now championing the ordinance, while also reaching out to retailers, community organizations and business institutions.
Evolvement received the Community Pillar Award from Denver Health to honor their impact in their community.
Joshua Pritchett, 17
Joshua has been involved in tobacco control for three years and is a member of Y Street, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s award-winning teen volunteer initiative that promotes a healthier Virginia. He serves on the Y Street Leadership Team, which plans activities in schools and communities statewide.
Joshua has worked with Y Street to educate members of Virginia’s General Assembly about the importance of tobacco prevention programs.
He has also been a leader in the 24/7 campaign, which focuses on prohibiting the use of tobacco products on public school campuses, including all school property and at all school events. He spoke to the Chesapeake School Board about why all schools in the district should be tobaccofree, presenting survey data about where students were exposed to tobacco use and secondhand smoke on campus.
Joshua is also proud that he helped his parents and grandparents quit smoking.
E. Tyler Boyle, 18
Tyler revitalized the SMACC (Students Making a Change in Our Community) Club on his high school campus, providing a forum for youth voices to be heard on tobacco issues.
He is active in the Smoke-Free Kentucky movement and spoke at the kickoff rally in Lexington for the campaign to enact a statewide smoke-free law. Ultimately, the state House passed the bill, but it died in the Senate.
Tyler worked with his local health department to organize two political forums – before the primary and general elections – to focus attention on tobacco’s toll in Kentucky and the need for strong action to address it. He has also spoken at press conferences on tobacco issues with the Kentucky and Indiana attorneys general.
His group, SMACC, has tackled e-cigarette use at their high school. Within two months of initiating discussions with school officials, the group secured e-cigarette language in the school’s smoke-free campus policy.
Tyler was personally motivated to join the fight against tobacco. His grandmother died from lung cancer, and multiple family members still smoke. Tyler does not want anyone else he knows to be harmed by tobacco use.
Lily Kraft, 18
Lily founded her local chapter of reACT (Teens Reacting Against Corporate Tobacco), which is Montana’s youth-led movement against Big Tobacco.
As President of her reACT group, she runs biweekly meetings, recruits new members, writes grant proposals and works with reACT chapters across Montana. Lily is the first high school student appointed to the Montana Tobacco Advisory Board, which advises the Montana Department of Public Health on administration of its Tobacco Use Prevention Program. When a state lawmaker tried to cut funding for the program, Lily sprung into action to preserve funding. She wrote letters to the editor, spoke at community meetings and met with legislators, the Lieutenant Governor and others to address the issue.
She also worked on a smoke-free parks initiative. When the Town Council initially opposed the proposal, Lily and her group persevered and offered to pay for and install signage, conduct cigarette butt cleanups at the town’s six parks and provide education on secondhand smoke in these venues. The Mayor and Town Council voted unanimously to accept their offer.
Lily became involved in tobacco control six years ago because she wanted to educate her community about tobacco prevention and the industry’s marketing tactics.
Madison Larimore, 17
Madison serves on the Youth Board of No Limits, Nebraska’s youth-led antitobacco movement that works to expose Big Tobacco’s marketing tactics. As co-chair of the Youth Board, she plans summits and events and develops the advocacy messaging and themes for the No Limits program.
Madison is currently working on a campaign to increase funding for tobacco prevention programs in Nebraska.
Previously, she participated in campaigns to make parks smoke-free and raise Nebraska’s tobacco tax. She also worked on efforts to regulate all tobacco products, which resulted in a state ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors and adoption of policies regulating the placement of tobacco products in retail stores. She worked with her school system to prohibit the use of new tobacco products on school campuses and ensure her peers learned about these new products.
Madison became involved with tobacco control three years ago after witnessing the harm tobacco use caused to her own family. She works toward a tobacco-free future to honor her great-aunt Carol, who passed away from lung cancer.