Youth Advocates of the Year Awards

Meet Our 2011 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.

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 BecauseOfYouKelly.com, 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.