Becoming Youth Advocate of the Year
Reality Check is a youth led, adult supported organization throughout New York State that is committed to being the tobacco free generation. Being on the Yroswell Street Team, we occasionally have guests come in from other parts of Roswell Park who speak to us about what they do working at a cancer hospital. At the end of my freshman year, Lindsay Amico came in and spoke to us about what she does at Roswell. Lindsay is a Youth Coalition Coordinator for Erie and Niagara County. She told us about all of the fun things that Reality Check does throughout the state, from traveling to advocating and all things in between. I, being extremely interested in public health, was so excited to join.
Over the past two years, I have become really involved with Reality Check and have even started a group at my school. This year, my school's group is focusing heavily on the marketing of tobacco products towards youth. Through Reality Check, I have become an even larger advocate for myself, my peers and my community than I ever thought possible. I am constantly going out into the community to educate and spread awareness about the dangers of smoking, vaping and the use of tobacco products. I have found my voice and have learned how to clearly communicate how harmful tobacco marketing is, especially because big tobacco is targeting students to become their replacement smokers.
One of my favorite events of the year was Legislative Day, held in Albany. Reality Check youth from across the state come together and meet with their elected officials. It is extremely empowering to see how much my representatives wanted to hear from me. From Monica Wallace to Tim Kennedy, they didn't want to hear from coordinators, they wanted to hear from students! It was amazing the impact my words had. I was really able to express my concerns about how tobacco was affecting my school and community. These meetings allowed me to forge connections with those who can make a difference in my community, by creating laws, bills and acts that can help stop the marketing of tobacco towards youth. Through this event, I gained the confidence and experience to begin to make connections with my local government, where I am able to make small changes on a small scale, that will eventually be able to help a lot of people.
This year's Legislative Day was extremely special, as I was awarded the Youth Advocate of the Year award for the Western Region. It was so exciting to be recognized for all of the hard work that I do each and every day. I’ve learned that no action will go unnoticed and that if you want change, you need to go out and do it because no one is going to do it for you. As a young person, I truly believe that we will be the generation to be tobacco free because of the work that my peers and I are doing.
For more information or how to join Reality Check, visit: www.realitycheckofny.com