Youth Advocates of the Year Awards

Past Winners

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.

Meet our 2012 Winners

National Youth Advocate of the Year
Gabe Glissmeyer, Salt Lake City, Utah, 18

Gabe's passion for tobacco-control advocacy began when he saw the harm that tobacco caused to his older sister, who started smoking at a young age. His interest deepened when he attended a gay pride event and was shocked to be told that he "couldn't be gay" because he didn't smoke. He soon learned how the tobacco industry targets the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Gabe then created Out of the Smoke, a program at the Utah Pride Center dedicated to helping people quit and encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Gabe also is president of the Youth Leadership Board of Utah's statewide youth tobacco-control program, One Good Reason. Working with One Good Reason, Gabe helped to survey 1,800 Utah teens about new, dissolvable tobacco products. The group's initiative, "It's All about the Packaging" was featured on national television and results were provided to the state of Colorado, where dissolvable products were being test-marketed. Gabe also has testified about tobacco issues before the Utah Legislature.

Group Winner
Reality Check — Madison, Oneida and Herkimer counties, New York

Reality Check works to eliminate point-of-sale marketing in stores frequented by youth, and campaigns to eliminate smoking from youth-rated movies, as well as from television shows and websites popular with teens. The group created the film Change, which examines at the history of tobacco marketing and shows how the industry continues to market to youth. The film helped the group to convince the Madison County Board of Supervisors to draft a policy banning tobacco point-of-sale displays. The film also was featured at 2011 World No Tobacco Day activities in New York, and is used in communities throughout New York and California.

Regional Winners

Eastern Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Hattie Simon, Old Orchard Beach, Maine, 16

Hattie created an action plan to make the historic beaches in her hometown of Old Orchard Beach tobacco-free. She received a grant and organized a tobacco-free beach group. The group surveyed thousands of residents and summer visitors. Results showed that 88 percent approved of the plan; the group then pressed the Town Council to act. The Town Council passed a resolution in November that made the beach a voluntary tobacco-free zone. Last week, Old Orchard Beach implemented the policy by posting signs stating, in English and in French, "Please do not use tobacco products on our beach." Hattie is now working with other Maine towns to help them develop tobacco-free beach and parks campaigns. Hattie was the only youth invited to present at the Healthy Maine Partnerships Annual Meeting in Augusta.

Southern Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Judy Hou, Midlothian, Virginia, 18

Judy is a leader of Y Street, Virginia's award-winning youth anti-tobacco group. With Y Street, she has surveyed Virginians to demonstrate they want smoke-free restaurants, and helped lead the Meltdown campaign, which focused attention on dissolvable and other smokeless tobacco products. Based on her work, Judy was asked to present Meltdown's findings to the FDA's Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee, to Virginia's two U.S. senators and to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Judy attended the FDA Youth Stakeholder meeting in Boston, as well as the FDA's Washington news conference to unveil the graphic warning labels for cigarettes. Since Y Street won the 2011 Group Award, Judy has worked as the youth voice for media outreach on the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids' annual report on state prevention funding and for Kick Butts Day.

Western Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Nataanii Hatathlie, Kirtland, New Mexico, 18

Nataanii is president of his school's Diné Youth Council, which promotes tobacco-free lifestyles, and a leader of Evolvement, the statewide youth tobacco control group. With Evolvement, Nataanii participated in the Meltdown campaign to raise awareness about dissolvable and other smokeless tobacco products, as well as a program to raise awareness about the impact of smoking in movies. Most recently, he's worked to promote tobacco-free homes and cars. As a member of the Navajo Nation, Nataanii has spoken frequently about tobacco to students in Navajo communities. Last summer he worked with the executive office of the Navajo Nation to plan the first ever youth summit, which drew 200 youth. He attended the FDA Youth Stakeholders meeting in Boston and will present on the Meltdown campaign at the 2012 National Conference on Tobacco or Health.

Central Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Jordenne McKay, LaCrosse, Wisconsin, 18

Jordy sits on the Youth Board of Directors of Fighting Against Corporate Tobacco, Wisconsin's youth program. In the past year, she has promoted the state's new smoke-free law, organized a campaign to thank legislators, educated business owners about the law's requirements and taught the public how to report violations. She planned a Young Women of Influence track at the state's Women of Influence expo, educating the community about how the tobacco industry targets women and girls. She currently focuses on educating policy makers about industry marketing to youth. Jordy has testified before the state Legislature and presented at the 2011 National Summit on Spit and Smokeless Tobacco. She also has met with Wisconsin's congressional delegation about FDA regulation and tobacco prevention.



Meet the 2011 Winners

National Youth Advocate of the Year
Abigail (Abby) Michaelsen, Newport Beach, CA, 18

Abby lost her father to a heart attack when she was only nine years old and she's honored his legacy with determined advocacy for policies proven to reduce tobacco use.

She’s lobbied California lawmakers to increase tobacco taxes and require insurers to provide coverage to help smokers quit. She also pressed successfully for the Newport Beach Environmental Quality Affairs Committee to pass a city ordinance requiring smoke-free public parks and restaurant patios and is now working to secure passage by the full city council.

Abby is also gearing up to help get out the vote for the California Cancer Research Act, which would raise the cigarette tax to fund cancer research and tobacco prevention and cessation.

Additionally, Abby started a successful Heart and Health Club at her school that is now being replicated at numerous other high schools in her county. Abby attended the American Heart Association’s National Lobby Day in Washington in April and plans a return to Sacramento to lobby on the smoking-cessation coverage issue.

Group Winner
Y Street, Virginia

Y Street develops creative, educational campaigns to fight the onslaught of tobacco industry marketing in Virginia.

Y-sters including Judy, Lydia, Unique and Patrick helped created Meltdown to educate Virginians about new products, such as Camel orbs, sticks and strips, and conducted surveys that showed youth often confused these products with candy because of packaging and flavors.

Last April, the group created its own, to prod American Idol Kelly Clarkson to drop tobacco company sponsorship of her concert in Indonesia. The site received more than 1,200 visits and generated more than 300 messages to Clarkson, who dropped the sponsorship. The youth also conducted surveys on the effectiveness of new, graphic warning labels proposed by FDA and sent more than 2,000 responses to the agency.

Regional Winners

Eastern Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Paige Niler, Dover, NH, 16

Paige helped draft and guide to passage a New Hampshire law prohibiting minors from using or possessing e-cigarettes. She testified before the New Hampshire Legislature about how e-cigarettes were being deceptively marketed. The measure passed and took effect last July. Paige also has testified in support of higher cigarette taxes and stricter regulation of tobacco vending machines.

Paige's work with Dover Youth to Youth has taken her to other states including Arkansas, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York, where she trains students about the tobacco industry’s deceptive practices and helps youth step up their involvement.

Southern Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Jordan Bontrager, Winter Haven, FL, 18

In his drive to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products in his county, Jordan has conducted more than 40 retail outlet surveys, attended meetings with county officials and made countless presentations.

In December 2010, the county commissioners passed a resolution discouraging the sale of flavored tobacco products. Jordan is now working to pass an ordinance to actually ban their sale.

Jordan also served as president of a student organization at Polk State College that is dedicated to changing social norms including advocating for tobacco-free policies.

Western Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Kiley Atkins, Taylorsville, UT, 17

Last year, Kiley was one of three Utah youth chosen to present to the state Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee about the harms of new smokeless tobacco products. As a result, Representative Paul Ray introduced a bill that would ban the sale of all flavored tobacco products. Kiley continues to advocate for this bill today.

When funding for tobacco prevention was jeopardized, Kiley lobbied her legislators for days by phone and email, then went to Capitol Hill in a successful push to save the programs. Additionally, Kiley also advocated passing a bill banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Central Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Joshua Dodson, Lawton, OK, 15

Joshua joined Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) to gain the knowledge to educate his family of tobacco users about its serious harms. He’s advocating to repeal an Oklahoma law that forbids local communities from having more stringent tobacco-control ordinances than state laws require.

Joshua has worked to enact a smoke-free ordinance and currently hosts legislative breakfasts to educate city council members on the need for tobacco-free parks.

Joshua’s motivation comes from his experiences playing and refereeing soccer. He is determined to protect his two younger siblings from secondhand smoke on the field. Joshua has also hosted art exhibitions featuring tobacco messages to educate the Lawton community on its dangers.


Meet the 2010 Winners

National Youth Advocate of the Year
Kyle Picha, Prairie du Chien, WI, 18

Kyle has a zest for learning, a knack for asking the right questions and a remarkable grasp on policy. He has demonstrated his effectiveness as a tobacco-control advocate in forums ranging from local and state legislative hearings to meetings with his representatives in Congress.

Kyle has served on the statewide youth board of directors of Fighting Against Corporate Tobacco (FACT) for three terms, and has been a member of the organization for five years. He advocated extensively in the successful battle to enact smoke-free legislation in Wisconsin and testified before the legislature's Joint Finance Committee.

He is currently helping to design a media plan for promoting the implementation of Wisconsin's smoke-free air law. Kyle has also worked for four years with Wisconsin Wins, which advocates strict enforcement of age requirements for purchasing tobacco. He is a leader in the movement to prevent youth from using smokeless tobacco, and helped organize the National Summit on Spit and Smokeless Tobacco. Kyle also is a member of his school's conservation club, political science club and forensics team.

Group Winner
Ramsey Tobacco Coalition, St. Paul, MN

When they discovered that stores in their neighborhood were selling candy cigarettes, bubble gum called "Big League Chew" and novelty lighters, Calitta, Brian, Jeremiah and Shanicee were outraged — and they turned their anger into action. They met with a city council member who agreed to introduce an ordinance banning the products if the young people met certain goals: They had to conduct a community assessment of the problem, present their findings to the council, educate each council member and pack the council chamber with supporters. They accomplished all of this and as a result, the St. Paul City Council voted unanimously to ban the sale of candy "tobacco" products. It is the first city in the country to do so.

Since the ordinance went into effect, the Ramsey Tobacco Coalition has helped the city monitor stores for compliance and assisted in media and educational campaigns. The group currently is working to increase the tax rate for small cigars and to stop tobacco industry funding of nonprofit organizations that work with youth.

International Grant Award Winner
Livia Clandorf, East Chatham, NY, 15

No cultural barrier or distance — or even loss of funding for her own community's tobacco control organization — impedes Livia's determined, global campaign against tobacco. This high school sophomore has traveled to India twice in the past year for the World Conference on Tobacco or Health and the Global Youth Meet.

She's also spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to India's health minister to protest smoking in movies and has collaborated with the Salaam Bombay Foundation in Mumbai to initiate a youth advocacy program for graduates of their high school program. She helped organize and participated in a demonstration at the Philip Morris International shareholder meeting in New York.

When her community's tobacco control group lost funding recently, Livia was able to secure a local grant to further her work and continues to network with her national and international contacts. Livia is also an actor, writer, student producer and a junior board member at the Valatie Community Theater.

Eastern Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Dianna Baker, Berlin, PA, 17

Dianna became involved in tobacco control advocacy when she joined Students Against Destructive Decisions. She has organized her school's annual "Snuff Out Tobacco" fair and spoke to an audience of more than 300 students on the important role they could play by participating in tobacco sale compliance checks.

For the past four years, Baker has been a member of Teens Against Tobacco Use and has lobbied state lawmakers for passage of the Clean Indoor Air Act, as well as for funding of state tobacco prevention and cessation programs. Dianna's passion has led her to speak in front of large rallies, dress up as a mascot and become a one-on-one mentor for other youth who want to become involved in tobacco control.

She recognizes that peers influence other young people more than adults, and she brings that perspective to her work. Dianna plans to enter Liberty University as a junior next fall. Her favorite author is Jane Austen.

Western Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Courtney Viernes-Silva, Ewa Beach, HI, 17

When Courtney lost her grandfather to the ravages of tobacco, she found her calling. She intensified her work on behalf of REAL, Hawaii's youth-led tobacco control organization, by lobbying to pass and defend a statewide smoke-free workplace law and advocating for a tobacco tax increase that passed on the first try.

She has also demonstrated at the Philip Morris International Shareholders' Meeting in New York, and led a roundtable discussion on youth involvement in tobacco control at the Oceania Tobacco Control Conference in Australia.

Courtney met with Hawaii's congressional delegation to lobby for passage of the landmark law to give the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco. She is currently working to gain public support for a statewide policy to reduce storefront marketing and promotion in Hawaii.

Southern Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Zachary Morris, Charlton Heights, WV, 18

Zachary began fighting against Big Tobacco when he was in the eighth grade, joining Raze, West Virginia's youth tobacco control movement.  Though the group is barred from direct lobbying, Zachary was elected president of its Teen Advisory Council, and he has used this position to meet with key lawmakers on tobacco issues.

He met with his state tax commissioner about the industry's introduction of new products which entice kids, and he traveled to Washington to meet with members of Congress about the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory authority over tobacco. For his efforts, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito awarded Zachary a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.

Zachary is currently leading a letter-writing campaign to state legislators about the importance of restoring funds for prevention programs in West Virginia, where smoking rates are among the highest in the nation.

Central Regional Youth Advocate of the Year
Caitlin Baker, Norman, OK, 16

While competing as a swimmer in the Native American Games, Caitlin became deeply concerned about the serious problem of tobacco use among Native Americans, especially those living on reservations. She immediately took action. Caitlin founded Competitive American Indians Turning Lifestyles into New Beginnings (CAITLINB), an outreach program that promotes tobacco-free lifestyles, sports participation and youth advocacy in Native American communities.

She travels throughout the nation to speak to Native American youth about healthy lifestyles. Additionally, Caitlin has worked as a tobacco-control advocate in her hometown. Beginning in eighth grade, she pressed for smoke-free public parks.

On Kick Butts Day, Caitlin and the Cleveland County SWAT group gathered cigarette butts they'd found in the parks, put them on display and used the demonstration to help them collect four pages of signatures in support of a smoke-free parks municipal ordinance. Last year, the City Council — which has not yet required smoke-free workplaces — voted unanimously to ban smoking in all public parks.