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2020 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards
Our 2020 Honorees
Governor of Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is a lifelong Michigander. She is a lawyer, an educator, former prosecutor, State Representative and Senator. She was the first woman to lead a Senate caucus. But as she likes to say, the most important title she boasts is MOM. Inspired by her family, she’s devoted her life to building a stronger Michigan for everyone.
As part of her commitment to protecting kids, Gov. Whitmer in September 2019 became the first governor to take emergency action to reverse the youth e-cigarette epidemic. In the midst of a rapidly growing public health crisis, Gov. Whitmer declared youth e-cigarette use to be a public health emergency and proposed the first statewide ban on the sale of all flavored e-cigarettes.
Her action in Michigan changed the national debate on the e-cigarette epidemic and served as the catalyst for other states to propose similar measures, both executive and legislative. Even in the face of tobacco industry challenges, her leadership on this issue continues to galvanize states and cities across the nation to take the necessary action to end this epidemic.
Gov. Whitmer was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2000 and to the state Senate in 2006 where she served as the Senate Democratic Leader. In the 2018 gubernatorial election, Gov. Whitmer carried all 83 counties in the primary and then won the general election. Since taking office, she has put together the most diverse cabinet in the state’s history and has signed executive directives to clean up drinking water, end discrimination in state government based on sexual orientation and gender identity, secure equal pay for equal work, and expand opportunities for small and disadvantaged businesses.
Gov. Whitmer is committed to solving the problems Michiganders face every day. That means ensuring every Michigander has a great public education and a path to a good-paying job, every community has clean, safe drinking water, and everyone can drive to work or drop their kids at school safely, without blowing a tire or cracking a windshield.
She and her husband live in Lansing with her two daughters. Her three stepsons live in Michigan as well. Gov. Whitmer earned a bachelor’s degree and law degree from Michigan State University.
Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence
The 2020 Judy Wilkenfeld Award honorees represent an extraordinary group of changemakers from ACT Promoção da Saúde in Brazil: Daniela Guedes, Anna Monteiro and Adriana Carvalho. While each winner has contributed her own unique abilities – with Adriana Carvalho leading legal efforts, Daniela Guedes mobilizing the coalition to ensure the government paid attention to the legal issues, and Anna Monteiro leading media relations – it is the synergy between them that has allowed for the development of one of the most successful bodies of work by a civil society organization working in tobacco control. As a result of their effective collaboration, the ACT coalition currently includes over one thousand members in all five Brazilian regions and it has been promoting successful advocacy, legal and communications activities. In addition, ACT coordinates a group of lawyers (50+) committed to tobacco control.
Barrie Fiske National Youth Advocate of the Year
Organization: Florida SWAT
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
National Youth Ambassador
From an early age, Allyssa Williams knew she was meant to lead. Growing up, Allyssa’s mother smoked and her brother struggled with severe asthma. Seeing the impact tobacco had on her own family, Allyssa recognized that African Americans bear a heavy burden from tobacco use, and that she herself was at risk. This fueled her passion for tobacco control, and she has dedicated her energy and leadership over the past six years to fighting to protect youth, especially youth of color, from tobacco.
Allyssa has advocated extensively at the local, state, and federal level, including collecting postcards and testifying in support of maintaining funding for Florida’s highly successful tobacco prevention program. Recently, she advocated for her U.S. representative to support the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would eliminate flavored tobacco products.
Allyssa currently serves as vice president of Florida’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) leadership team. She played a leading role in creating and launching SWAT’s Not a Lab Rat Campaign to combat misinformation about the youth e-cigarette epidemic, which was awarded the 2019 World No Tobacco Day award from the World Health Organization. She was also featured in a national public service announcement for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids highlighting the critical need to address menthol tobacco.
Individual Youth Advocates of the Year
Organization: JP Stevens High School FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America)
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
National Youth Ambassador
Sophia’s passion for tobacco control and advocacy started when she saw firsthand how tobacco has impacted members of her community. Recognizing the power of the youth voice from her experience as a member of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), she has worked to educate her peers about e-cigarettes and other tobacco products, and has been a leading voice in her state for policies to protect youth.
As FCCLA New Jersey State President, Sophia educates students and teacher about e-cigarettes through “The Student Vaping Epidemic" workshops in schools and at the New Jersey Educator Conference. She advocated for legislation to end the sale of flavored tobacco products in New Jersey by testifying before the State Board of Education and the state Senate, and published a letter to the editor in The Star-Ledger. New Jersey became one of the first states to pass a law ending the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
At the federal level, Sophia spoke at events held by U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone and Josh Gottheimer in support of the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act, and advocated for New Jersey lawmakers to support the bill.
Organization: McCracken High School FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America)
Abby started using Juul at her first-ever high school football game after being told by a friend that it was just flavored water vapor. She got hooked and later was caught vaping in school and served an in-school suspension. As a straight-A student and member of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), she was devastated and decided to use her experience to create change that would prevent her friends from vaping.
Abby initiated a peer-to-peer vaping education program in her school and neighboring elementary and middle schools. She worked with her peers to develop a survey to better understand youth use of flavored e-cigarettes and used this information to advocate to both her state and federal representatives about the need to prohibit flavored tobacco products. Abby has shared her story at a rally at the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort and at a press conference held by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in support of the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act. Abby’s story and her school’s experience with e-cigarettes have been featured in The New York Times and Prevention Magazine, in addition to several publications in Kentucky.
Organization: Students Against Nicotine
Abe joined the fight against tobacco after learning about the toll of tobacco use on his family and witnessing the impact of e-cigarettes on his classmates. Inspired to elevate the youth voice and create change, he founded a student-led nonprofit, Students Against Nicotine, where he currently serves as Executive Director.
Abe was a youth leader in the successful effort to pass a statewide law in New York ending the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, providing a critical youth voice in support of legislation that was a top priority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and that the governor signed into law in April 2020. New York was one of the first states to end the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.
Abe’s passion and dedication helped pass Tobacco 21 legislation in Westchester County and a prohibition on the sale of flavored tobacco in Yonkers, NY. He has led the youth charge in New York to prohibit flavored tobacco products, include e-cigarettes in the Clean Air Act, and ensure strong enforcement of Tobacco 21 laws. Abe also works to prevent teen e-cigarette use through peer-to-peer education, including spearheading an effort to translate educational materials into Spanish after realizing there was a lack of resources for Spanish-speaking teens and parents.
Organization: International Youth Tobacco Control
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
National Youth Ambassador
Lisa’s dedication to tobacco control began when she witnessed the global toll of tobacco firsthand while traveling in China with her mother, a cardiologist.
Inspired to tackle the problem through her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she surveyed nearly 900 students in China about teen smoking and learned that China, among other countries, lacked legislative and educational resources to prevent youth tobacco use. She founded International Youth Tobacco Control (IYTC) in 2016, a nonprofit organization comprised of 200 middle and high school students in the U.S., Canada, China, Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia dedicated to reducing global teen tobacco use. She collaborated with Dr. Dayi Hu, chair of the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control, to propose legislation to establish a legal smoking age and implement strict age verification in China.
Whether testifying at hearings, meeting with policymakers or speaking at press conferences, Lisa’s ability to effectively communicate the urgency of protecting kids from tobacco is a force for change. She played a key role in advocating for a new law prohibiting the sale of flavored tobacco products in Los Angeles County by speaking to her county commissioners and testifying at a commission hearing. Lisa also advocated to her U.S. representatives asking them to support the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act.
Group Youth Advocates of the Year
Luis Matos De Los Santos
The 84 Movement’s twelve-year journey against Big Tobacco has spread kindness, integrity and enthusiasm throughout Massachusetts youth tobacco prevention community. They have advocated for prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco, more stringent regulations on tobacco retailers, and improved tobacco zoning rules. Youth from The 84 Movement has brought their personal stories to the State House and educated legislators on issues they see in their community. The 84 Movement’s local advocacy in cities and towns helped set the stage for a historic victory in 2019 when the Massachusetts legislature passed and Gov. Charlie Baker signed the nation’s first statewide law ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes.
The 84 Movement’s annual Youth Power Summits brings together over 70 chapters from across Massachusetts to create a more cohesive and transparent understanding of tobacco industry tactics and the power of the youth voice in taking down tobacco. This year, The 84 Movement started a Middle School Pilot Program, comprised of eight middle school chapters, that is aimed at reaching more students with the education they need to make good choices about tobacco use, including e-cigarettes.
The 84 Movement is committed to continuing to fight Big Tobacco in Massachusetts and to raising the youth voice through creativity, collaboration and inclusion.
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