Nothing says summer like the Reality Check Youth Summit. The impact will continue well into fall, winter and spring as our youth take action against tobacco in their communities.
The setting: Cazenovia College in Syracuse, New York.
The scene: 20 of our advocates from across Western New York connected with 150 other youth from around the state.
They talked tobacco and how to control it.
What did the Reality Check team take home with them?
* Public speaking and leadership skills, to name a couple of things.
- Epic plans to continue their fight against the tobacco industry’s influence back home in their communities.
- Tons of inspiration passed on to them by national youth speakers, all aimed at helping them achieve their tobacco-free generation goals.
Summit diary from Nora
Here’s a full Summit scenario contributed by Nora Galley, a Erie-Niagara Reality Check member:
“We arrived at Cazenovia College at 2:30 on July 18th, 3 hours after leaving Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Then it was key pickup before settling into our rooms — cool dorm rooms on campus. We then walked to the Catherine Cummings theatre, where the many leaders of Youth Summit greeted us and explained the goals of the next 3 days.
Harlan Juster, the director of the the New York State Tobacco Control program, was the first speaker. He shared the achievements of the Reality Check program.
Next up: Erica Olmstead, Youth Advocacy manager at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and former Reality Check member. She told her story of getting involved in the group and how it influenced her later life. We all felt that Erica’s story was very similar to our own.
Like us, Erica was inspired to become a tobacco control activist because it was a problem in her community. She told us we have a voice in our community and helped us realize how our efforts, no matter how small, can make a huge impact.
Other speakers included experts from the Advocacy Institute and an advocate named Gustavo Torrez from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. He’s been fighting tobacco for 19 years.
We were also nourished with good food. We ate all of our meals inside the Cazenovia College dining hall.
To make sure we put our learning into action, we met each day with our small groups to discuss what we had talked about and how to plan future events.
Beyond tobacco-free planning, we enjoyed music and games in the quad. We also interviewed people from Cazenovia at the beach, asking their thoughts on tobacco marketing. To our surprise, many were very knowledgeable about tobacco advertising and targeting and felt very strongly about tobacco use and their children being around second hand smoke. Our reward for that project was going swimming in the lake.
As we walked around town, we “chalked the walk,” as in writing impactful tobacco facts on sidewalks in town. We also shared our moves at a dance party on night two, and the Erie-Niagara Reality Check group went downstairs to play cards.
The final day featured our last presenter, a singer named Jared Campbell. Great music, we all agreed. His songs were about the importance of strength and standing up for your beliefs. What a perfect Summit ending!”
About the author: Nora, a soon-to-be senior at Mount Mercy Academy in Buffalo, is a Reality Check advocate from Tobacco-Free Erie-Niagara. Check out her video soundbite from a recent Buffalo Bisons’ game.