Watertown Youth Coalition Wins Award for Anti-Tobacco Efforts

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Marilyn Humphries

Members of the Watertown Youth Coalition of the Wayside Multi-Service Center celebrated Kick Butts Day, an annual youth tobacco prevention event. Pictured, from left: Shariel Joseph, Olivia Haggerty, Shama Joseph, Eva Henry, Marcus Moore and chapter advisor Dawn Graham.

The following information was provided by The 84 Movement:

Five youth and their advisor from the Watertown Youth Coalition joined other youth from across the Commonwealth last week for a Kick Butts Day event to celebrate their role in reducing the influence of the tobacco industry in their communities.

The 19 participating chapters are all members of The 84 Movement. Youth leaders of The 84 Movement educate and mobilize young people to take action and protect their communities from the tobacco and vaping industries.

During a ceremony in the Great Hall at the State House, awards were presented to individuals and chapters of The 84 Movement for their dedication to reducing the impact of tobacco and nicotine. The Watertown Youth Coalition Peer Leaders were recognized with The 84 Movement’s Local Community Change Award and their advisor, Dawn Graham, received the Adult Advisor Award. The Watertown Youth Coalition is a program of the Wayside Multi-Service Center.

The Peer Leaders were acknowledged for working hard over the last two years to show their community how the tobacco and vaping industries target youth. The group conducted a Community Mapping Project to highlight the density of tobacco retailers and how close they are to places frequented by youth; they repeatedly shared what they learned with adults and advocated for change. Policy changes that the Peer Leaders proposed to protect youth were all adopted by the Watertown Board of Health. Advisor Dawn Graham was recognized for tireless support of the Peer Leaders during this time, for promoting the chapter’s work and for always looking for ways to amplify youth voices in the community.

The youth met with staff for Senator Brownsberger, Representative Hecht and Representative Lawn at the State House to express their concerns about tobacco, and particularly the rise of vaping and e-cigarettes.

Reflecting on the experience, Olivia Haggerty, junior at Watertown High School, shared, “It was my first Kick Butts Day and I didn’t really know how it was going to go. I was a little nervous talking to legislators for the first time, but it went really well and it taught me how to communicate with the people who are there to help me and maybe be more confident to pursue certain issues that I’m passionate about with my government leaders.”

The 84 Movement youth talked with lawmakers about how the tobacco and vaping industries use the tactics of making their products sweet, cheap and easy to get to hook youth. In 2015, nearly 1 in 4 high school youth in Massachusetts said they used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days. The young people involved in The 84 Movement know that youth use these products nine times more often than adults and that they are not harmless since they contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals. Legislators learned that around the Commonwealth, youth in The 84 Movement are working to address where tobacco products, e-cigarettes and vapes, including enticing flavored products, can be sold and used.

Sarah Ryan, a junior at Holbrook High School, is the winner of this year’s Statewide Leadership Award and a real believer in the power of the youth voice. “We’re all ‘just kids.’ Just kids who are passionate about public health. Just kids who serve as leaders in our communities. Just kids who are fighting for change. Just kids educating our peers and marching on Boston Common and meeting with our legislators. Just kids who represent the voice of an entire generation,” Ryan said in accepting the award.

At the State House, the young people participated in an inspiring program with the Massachusetts Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Monica Bharel who told the youth, “We have made great progress in Massachusetts and it could not have been accomplished without young people educating adults about the tobacco industry influence you witness. Your voice is crucial to removing the tobacco industry’s influence from our communities and our Commonwealth.” The youth also heard from Representatives Sean Garbaley, Kate Hogan, Paul McMurtry and Senator Jason Lewis about how the tobacco industry targets them.

During the awards ceremony, other Youth Leadership Awards were also presented to individuals and chapters of The 84 Movement for their dedication to reducing the impact of tobacco in their communities and across Massachusetts. All youth attendees were applauded for their dedication to promoting healthy choices among their peers and for sharing with legislators what they see and experience every day in their communities.

The 84 is a program of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program, developed and managed in partnership with Health Resources in Action. For more information on The 84 Movement and the work being done throughout the Commonwealth to make smoking history, visit
www.The84.org and www.makesmokinghistory.org.

Participating Chapters

Arlington Youth Health and Safety Coalition (Arlington High School)

Melrose Youth Action Team (Melrose High School)

Brookline Peer Leaders (Brookline High School)

Healthy Peabody Collaborative (Peabody Veterans Memorial High School)

DanversCARES (Danvers High School)

LEAP for Education, Salem

MOC Peer Educators (Montachusett Opportunity Council,. Fitchburg

South Hadley High School Peer Leaders (South Hadley High School)

The 92 Club (Mount Wachusett Community College), Gardner

Mason Square Health Task Force (MLK Jr. Family Services), Springfield

Gloucester Youth Council (Cape Ann YMCA)

Bristol-Plymouth SADD (Bristol Plymouth Regional Technical School)

Holbrook Middle High School

Wakefield Youth Action Team (Wakefield Wake-Up Coalition)

Boston Trinity Academy, Hyde Park

Waltham Trailblazers (Waltham High School)

Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force (Lawrence Methuen Community Coalition)

Watertown Youth Coalition Peer Leaders (Wayside Multi-Service
Center)

Part of the Solution (Girls Inc. of Lynn)

About The 84 Movement

The 84 Movement is a program of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health developed and managed in partnership with Health Resources in Action. Created in 2007 to represent the 84 percent of Massachusetts youth who did not smoke cigarettes (in 2015 that number was 92 percent), The 84 Movement is a tobacco prevention program that empowers young people to fight the influence of the tobacco industry in their community.

One thought on “Watertown Youth Coalition Wins Award for Anti-Tobacco Efforts

  1. Congratulations to the Watertown Youth Coalition Peer Leaders and Advisor Dawn Graham for their recognition at the State House reflecting their tireless efforts on youth tobacco prevention and other movements! I have worked with this group and found them to be knowledgeable and informed, dedicated, and passionate about their community and Watertown youth concerns.

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