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Statewide Youth Leadership Award Winner: Ishivita Bali!

Every Kick Butts Day: Take Down Tobacco, we recognize the work that youth and Chapters across the state have been doing by giving away the Youth Leadership Awards! The 84 Movement’s Statewide Youth Leadership Award is a chance for youth to EXPRESS THEMSELVES and BE RECOGNIZED for the great work they do in their communities and in the state for tobacco prevention.

This year’s 84 Movement Statewide Youth Leadership Award Winner is Ishivita Bali from the Somerville Positive Forces Chapter! Take a look at her acceptance speech below:

“Good afternoon! I am deeply honored to receive The 84 Movement’s 2020 Youth Leadership Award in recognition of my passion for spreading The 84’s message among my peers and my leadership initiative within my Chapter, Somerville Positive Forces (SPF). 

SPF is a team of high school and middle school youth leaders that work together to reduce underage drinking and drug use. I have been a SPF Youth Leader since middle school. I was a SPF Jr. member through 6th to 8th grade and I have been a SPF100 member since 9th grade. I chose to join my Chapter because I saw and I continue to see how the tobacco industry is targeting teens as replacement smokers through a targeted social media presence and introducing “appealing” flavors. My continued exposure to this injustice has strengthened my resolve to take action against the tobacco industry.  I sought to lead change in my community and learn more about the prevention efforts that can be taken to educate and help youth make positive choices and avoid substance abuse. I am proud and I am privileged to dedicate my time to be able to reduce the influence of the tobacco industry in Somerville and across Massachusetts by educating youth about tobacco industry tactics and promoting the norm that most youth do not smoke.  

In SPF’s National Kick Butts Day campaign, I was able to promote smoking prevention messages in a colorful way along sidewalks around Somerville High School by chalking prevention messages on the sidewalks, including, “MOST SHS DON’T SMOKE,” “#IKICKBUTTS,” and “1-800-Quit NOW.” Our goal was to promote public awareness of the danger of cigarettes and raise awareness that the tobacco industry is targeting youth. 

In SPF”s Most Don’t campaign, I help to spread the message to Somerville youth that “Most SHS students don’t smoke” and “Most SHS students don’t drink alcohol” because it is a common misconception among youth that “Everyone does it”. This misconception influences young people to start using tobacco because they believe it is appealing and cool in high school. I help to educate youth that this notion is not true because I encourage both youth and community members to wear and share our Most Don’t pin.  

Especially in these unprecedented times, it is empowering to see how we can stick together even though we are physically apart by coming together and appreciating each other to provide support and impact positive change. That’s why, lately, my Chapter and I have put together a video and more media to show how we can “flattenthecurve” at home through acts of kindness in our community and educate youth that youth who smoke or vape are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19.  

On that note, I want to thank my Chapter director, Lovelee Heller, because she has been a mentor to me since I was a SPF Jr. member and her positive example has taught me how to be a youth leader with integrity, accountability, empathy, humility, and resilience. I want to thank The 84 because my Youth Leadership Award has made me more assured in my leadership and dedication to address tobacco issues. 

There is collective power in our Chapters’ unity and to see Chapters’ hard work and dedication in The 84’s virtual Kick Butts Day is a testament to Massachusetts’s immense potential to improve and strengthen youth tobacco prevention. I want to emphasize how youth leadership and initiative is crucial to the fight against Big Tobacco. It is vital that youth continue to have input and representation in youth tobacco prevention efforts. For example, in my junior year, my team and I were able to lobby our Local Board of Health to vote to ban the sale of e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes in stores that are open to youth, which was a move that effectively pulled the products from convenience store shelves, by crafting and delivering a group testimony in support of this ban. As a result, Somerville became the first city in Massachusetts to restrict e-cigarette sales. To the youth here on this virtual event, I use this example because I want you to know that you have the power to make a change in your community. You have the power to lead and make your voice heard. You have the power to make a difference and a statewide impact. 

Your voice is important. Your voice matters. Believe in the power of your voice because using your voice is the best way to ignite change. ”

We are so proud of Ishivita and all the hard work and dedication she has shown in continuing the fight against tobacco. Congratulations on your achievements, Ishivita!

Youth Power!