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Become a Leader: Apply for the Youth Advocate of the Year Awards
Winning a Youth Advocate of the Year Award (YAYA) changed my life.
When I first joined Students Working Against Tobacco (Florida’s statewide anti-tobacco youth movement) as a freshman, I sat at the back of the meeting and was too afraid to utter a word. However, as I saw that the work I did made a difference, I gained confidence. By the beginning of my senior year in high school, I led and facilitated trainings with huge audiences.
While I didn’t realize it at the time, taking that first step to join my school’s anti-tobacco group put me on a path to become a two-time YAYA winner. As a result, I’ve had incredible opportunities.
When I first applied for the Youth Advocates of the Year Awards, I did not win. Instead of being sad and giving up, I dedicated myself to working even harder over the next year and trying again. To my utter disbelief, I was selected as the 2013 South Region Youth Advocate of the Year and traveled to Washington, D.C., for the first time to attend the awards Gala. I spent the whole trip thinking how privileged I was to be among so many other successful tobacco-control advocates.
After I won the award, I honed my advocacy skills by starting the #NotAReplacement social media campaign in Florida and creating a “Tobacco-Free Farm Share” in my county with Americorps to provide free food and tobacco prevention and cessation materials to more than 1,200 families.
In 2014, I became the National Youth Advocate of the Year. When I received my award at the Gala, I gave a speech. While I was nervous, speaking in front of so many amazing people was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Magi giving her speech at the 2014 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards Gala
My year as a National YAYA winner was a whirlwind of experiences and opportunities. I traveled to train youth advocates in other states, presented at national conferences, served as a spokesperson for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids with reporters across the country, and helped launch #NotAReplacement as an international social media campaign for Kick Butts Day 2015.
Because of the #NotAReplacement campaign, I was featured on Seventeen magazine’s website. To make the experience even more incredible, Chelsea Clinton featured my work in her in her book!
Advocates are a different breed. We see the world through a different lens. Instead of being apathetic to the plight of others, we take a stand. The tobacco industry markets deadly and addictive products to people who are vulnerable. As tobacco control advocates, it is our duty to stand up against the tobacco industry and try to make a change in our schools, our communities, and our states.
Being a YAYA winner was about far more than going to a fancy Gala or receiving a scholarship; it was about challenging myself and becoming a strong leader. If you want to take your advocacy efforts to the next level, I encourage you to apply to be a 2016 Youth Advocate of the Year today! You never know where it will take you.Related Keywords: youth advocates of the year awards,