Evolvement Youth on “Tour”
My name is Abigail and I am a senior member of the Evolvement Leadership Team at Los Lunas High School. I joined Evolvement my junior year because I am incredibly passionate about activism and social justice; as soon as I became aware of the many ways in which Big Tobacco prey on the youth in this country -especially on minorities- I knew I couldn’t just sit back and ignore it. Since that time, I’ve seen multiple classmates, friends and family members using tobacco products and one of my uncles even got lung cancer as a result of smoking cigarettes for many years. In an effort to prevent these things, as an Evolvement advocate, I’ve had incredible opportunities such as: visiting the roundhouse at the capitol and speaking to legislators and representatives about the work that Evolvement does, talking to community members in my school, at athletic events and at bigger community functions such as the New Mexico Fiery Foods Festival, meeting other Evolvers from all over New Mexico and now getting to visit Washington D.C. and talk to people from all over the nation about the epidemic we are facing in the United States of America of electronic cigarettes like the Juul on Kick Butts Day.
Kick Butts Day is a national day of action where Evolvement youth join other youth advocates from across the country to fight against big tobacco. During the Spanish media tour for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, I was up bright and early to get to the studio and get camera-ready. For several hours, another youth advocate who did the English media tour and I took turns calling in to local and national radio and television stations all over the United States to tell them about Kick Butts Day and the effort that is being made by youth advocates all over the country to face off against big tobacco and the impact that it is having on the younger generations. While I was there, the volunteers at the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids were amazing; they were incredibly accommodating, thoughtful and helpful and worked tirelessly to ensure that the youth advocates were comfortable, prepared and that everything ran as smoothly as possible. My role was to follow the lead of all of the media advisors to do our best to get the message out clearly and make sure that we were available and ready to go live when they gave the word. Although I was a bit nervous to be on the air nationally, I knew that the work I was doing was important and I was proud to know that I could have such a widespread, positive impact. Overall, the experience was one of the best I’ve ever had and I will never forget it.
It is important for youth to get involved and become advocates for their schools and communities because if they don’t do it, no one will. The youth have more power than they may realize to make change and advocating for the changes you want to see happen can have life-changing results not only for those you’re advocating for but also for you. It can make you a better leader and public speaker, expose you to influential, like-minded people, and give you experiences that will make you a more empathetic, well-rounded person. Other youth should be passionate about the issue because these tobacco companies are targeting us, our friends, our siblings, and all of the youth to come; to them, we’re just “replacement smokers”, new cash cows to replace those who’ve died from using their products and get addicted to their tobacco products, get sick and eventually die too as a result just so they can remain rich and in power. This experience has only served to bolster my belief that we can fight back and even if it seems insignificant, if we keep working and advocating for those who can’t or won’t, real change can be made. I hope to take what I’ve learned from this experience and use it to continue working with Evolvement to keep all tobacco products out of the hands of under aged people and out of schools, 100% of the time so that we can create the first true tobacco-free generation.