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Youth Advocates of the Year
Our annual Youth Advocates of the Year Awards honor top youth leaders in the fight against tobacco. These teens have advocated for tobacco prevention policies, taken on the tobacco industry and its deceptive marketing, and helped keep peers tobacco-free. Each May, we honor a national winner, four regional winners and one group winner.
In addition to receiving a combination of scholarships and grants, winners work with Tobacco-Free Kids on policy priorities at the local, state and national level and receive ongoing technical assistance.
Individual winners also serve as ambassadors for Tobacco-Free Kids, working on training and empowering other youth advocates around the country, and serving as spokespeople with the media.
Our national winner also serves on the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Board of Directors for two years.
Previous winners have participated in White House events, appeared in People magazine and Seventeen magazine online, met with Members of Congress, and participated in press conferences alongside the United States Surgeon General.
Meet our 2016 Winners
NATIONAL YOUTH ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR
Bryce Moore, 18
Bryce is motivated to fight tobacco by both personal experience – his beloved grandfather was diagnosed with cancer caused by tobacco use – and the experience of his state, Mississippi, which has high rates of smoking and related diseases.
Bryce has advocated for policy change at the local and state levels. He works with the Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition to help communities pass smoke-free air policies. There are now more than 116 smoke-free communities in Mississippi. He also worked with Cleaner Air for Kids, a grassroots organization, to encourage local businesses to adopt smoke-free policies.
Bryce has also supported a statewide campaign to raise the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21.
Bryce serves on the board of Generation Free, Mississippi’s youth-led tobacco prevention program. He has led statewide conferences to educate teens about tobacco and founded a Generation Free chapter at his high school.
Bryce is participating in Truth Initiative’s Youth Activism Fellowship, a one-year leadership and community activism program for 18- to 24-year-olds.
Youth With Vision
Jordan Elder, 18; Conor Henry, 18; Maddy Mills, 18; Madison Schmerbach, 18
Kansas City, Missouri
Youth With Vision brings together youth advocates from Missouri’s Clay, Platte and Ray counties to fight tobacco.
Youth With Vision worked with local organizations and Kansas City Council members to raise the minimum age of sale for tobacco products to 21. This new law, enacted unanimously in November 2015, made Kansas City a national leader in the growing tobacco 21 movement. Youth With Vision activists testified in support of the tobacco 21 legislation and are now working to enact similar measures in other communities.
The Kansas City Council also enacted another measure supported by these young advocates that adds electronic cigarettes to the city’s Clean Air Act. Youth With Vision members also launched a “Nicotine is Nicotine” campaign to educate teens about the health risks of e-cigarettes.
Youth With Vision has helped to pass smoke-free air laws in Kansas City and several other communities and is now pushing to make the Missouri State Capitol smoke-free.
EAST REGION YOUTH ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR
Jada Rasulallah, 15
In 2015, Jada joined the inaugural Real Talk Tobacco! class of the Advocacy Institute, a program of the Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania. This initiative was created with funding from the CVS Health Foundation.
Jada helped develop and launch the #Philly1st campaign to make Philadelphia the first city to reduce its youth smoking rate to zero. She spoke at the kickoff press conference, has hosted events in communities most affected by tobacco use and serves as an ambassador for the campaign.
Jada is also advocating for pharmacies to become tobacco-free. She has met with Philadelphia and state leaders about legislation to end tobacco sales in pharmacies.
Jada became involved in tobacco control to break the cycle of addiction in her family. She views fighting tobacco as a social justice issue and is dedicated to improving her community by reducing tobacco use.
CENTRAL REGION YOUTH ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR
Breanna (Bree) Wilson, 17
Bree is a member of VOICE Indiana, a statewide initiative to engage, educate and empower youth against tobacco use. Through VOICE, Bree organized a sports training program that educated more than 300 student athletes on tobacco’s health effects.
Shortly after joining VOICE, Bree brought her concerns about e-cigarettes to Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. She has since partnered with him to speak about tobacco at several events, including the annual Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) conference.
Bree also visits the Indiana State House regularly to speak with elected officials about the importance of raising taxes on all tobacco products.
Bree became involved in tobacco control because she wanted to educate herself and her peers about tobacco prevention. She participated in Truth Initiative’s National Summit on Youth Activism in 2015.
SOUTH REGION YOUTH ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR
Carlos Vela, 17
Carlos serves as president of his school’s chapter of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and is an ambassador for Say What! (Students, Adults and Youth Working Hard Against Tobacco!), a youth movement to reduce tobacco use in the Lone Star State.
As an ambassador for Say What!, Carlos travels across Texas to train other youth leaders to become advocates in the fight against tobacco.
His group, SADD, is advocating for a smoke-free ordinance in his hometown of Ingleside. Carlos recently went before the City Council to propose the ordinance. His group is holding community events, meeting with business owners, collecting petition signatures and generating media attention to build support for the ordinance.
Carlos has also met with his members of Congress to urge them to support strong FDA regulation of all tobacco products.
Motivated by his mother’s struggle to quit smoking, Carlos became involved in tobacco control three years ago.
WEST REGION YOUTH ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR
Tyra Nicolay, 16
Shiprock, New Mexico
Tyra founded her school’s advocacy group, Eagles Innovation Effect, and is a youth leader in New Mexico’s fight to reduce tobacco use.
Tyra began using e-cigarettes as a high school freshman, encouraged by friends and unaware of its potential health effects. After learning about nicotine addiction and how e-cigarettes are marketed to entice kids, she quit using the product and began educating her peers and advocating for regulation of e-cigarettes. Seventeen Magazine featured Tyra’s story in its December 2015 issue.
Tyra also works to reduce tobacco use in the Navajo Nation. With help from Navajo Nation Council members, she developed legislation to prohibit commercial tobacco use on the Navajo Reservation. She is meeting with council delegates about the legislation and other ways to reduce tobacco use.
Tyra’s grandfather died from lung cancer, and other family members use tobacco products. She was further motivated when she attended Truth Initiative’s National Summit on Youth Activism. Tyra does not want anyone to be harmed by tobacco or tricked by the industry’s marketing tactics.