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 2013 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards were presented on May 2, 2013 in Washington, DC, at our Youth Advocates of the Year Awards Gala.
National Youth Advocate of the Year
Tyler Long, Fletcher, NC, 18
A senior at Asheville High School and the grandson of a tobacco farmer, Tyler heard mixed messages about tobacco use while growing up. To help his peers understand its dangers, he started a Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU) club at his middle school. Today he is president of his high school's chapter.
Tyler is a youth leader in North Carolina's statewide tobacco prevention program, Tobacco Reality Unfiltered (TRU), and he has worked to defend the program from budget cuts. He regularly conducts advocacy trainings and twice a year runs the TRU fair where he educates middle school students about tobacco use. He also played a leading role in ending tobacco sponsorship of Bele Chere, a major music and arts festival in Asheville.
Show-Me PALS of Missouri
Show-Me PALS (People Advocating Living Smoke-free) engages youth activists across Missouri. Members of the Youth Advisory Board have worked in their communities and schools to protect others from secondhand smoke, provide cessation services to English-as-a-Second-Language residents, build support for tobacco-free school grounds and other community policies to reduce tobacco use, and plan creative activities to promote a tobacco-free lifestyle.
To empower Missouri youth to stand up to tobacco, the members of the Youth Advisory Board have presented at national and statewide conferences, led Missouri youth in supporting a 2012 ballot initiative to increase the state tobacco tax and planned and implemented an advocacy day at the state Capitol.
The Youth Advisory Board members are: Becky Bade, 15, of New Bloomfield; Alyssa Bradley, 15, of New Bloomfield; Daniel Giuffra, 17, of Chesterfield; and Madison Kellums, 16, of Arbyrd.
Eastern Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Brittani Jones, Dorchester, MA, 18
Brittani is a senior at Boston Trinity Academy. She first became involved in the fight against tobacco because her grandmother smoked and struggled to quit. After joining Breath of Life Dorchester (BOLD Teens), a peer leadership group, Brittani was chosen to serve on the statewide leadership team of The 84, a youth-led movement fighting for a tobacco-free generation in Massachusetts. The name refers to the fact that 84 percent of high school students in Massachusetts choose to be tobacco-free.
Brittani was a key planner of The 84's Kick Butts Day event this year; she and her peers marched to the State House and urged state legislators to support a proposed $1 cigarette tax increase. She also led a statewide training with 200 youth participants.
Southern Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Magi Linscott, Pace, FL, 16
Magi is a junior at Pace High School. After tobacco use caused her grandmother's death, Magi joined SWAT (Students Working against Tobacco) during her freshman year and is now an officer on the organization's statewide Youth Advocacy Board.
Magi has worked to get local governments in her county to pass resolutions opposing the sale of candy-flavored tobacco, convincing all but one city to adopt such resolutions. She has met with state legislators to speak about her advocacy work and involvement in SWAT and has led five county trainings, reaching over 200 youth. She has also designed several thought-provoking activities for her peers, including one called "The Deadly Package" that focuses on how the design, colors and shape of tobacco products target specific demographics.
Western Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Darrien Skinner, Ingleside, TX, 18
Darrien is a senior at Ingleside High School and became involved in the fight against tobacco as a freshman through Students against Destructive Decisions (SADD). He works as an advocate with the Texas Teen Ambassadors (TTA) program and has presented at the state's regional tobacco summits and statewide conferences. He has also met with his state legislators to advocate for a statewide smoke-free air law in Texas.
Last summer, he represented Texas at the National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Kansas City, where he helped plan and implement an activism event in support of Missouri's ballot initiative to raise the tobacco tax. He has organized multiple Kick Butts Day events and trains his peers on how to meet with legislators and advocate for causes they believe in.
Central Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Joanna Hejl, Lincoln, NE, 15
Joanna is a freshman at Lincoln High School, where she started a club to inform her peers about the tobacco industry's deceptions. She helps lead regional trainings across the state on community activism and tobacco-free parks.
Joanna is also a board member of the statewide movement, No Limits Nebraska. In this role, she helped lead the lobby day training for their large Kick Butts Day event, during which kids from across the state met with legislators to talk about the importance of fighting tobacco use. She is also involved in planning the No Limits Summer Summit, a training program for teen activists. Joanna is also working to increase Nebraska's tobacco tax and ensure that all cigars are regulated by the FDA.
Joining Forces Award for Youth Advocacy
Alexander Higginbotham, Odessa, MO, 16
Alex is a junior at Odessa High School, and his father is a Navy commander. Alex is involved with Smokebusters/Show-Me PALS (People Advocating Living Smoke-free) in Missouri and serves as the group's vice president. He also recruited 28 youth and founded Odessa's first chapter of Students with a Goal (SWAG).
Alex has mobilized his peers and engaged his city council in support of smoke-free air policies. This fall, he recorded two radio public service announcements and created a Halloween-themed campaign in support of Missouri's ballot initiative to raise the tobacco tax. As Vice President of Show-Me PALS, Alex led the youth training portion and spoke at the Tobacco-Free Missouri Capitol Day rally.