Hello everyone and thank you, Senator Keenan and Senator Hinds, for presenting me with this award! As you mentioned, my name is Tia Kareh, I am a 16 year old junior from Adams, Massachusetts, commonly known as the Berkshires! I am honored to be the recipient of the Youth Leadership Award this year and be able to share my ideas and experiences with you.
Similar to other schools around the state, and even country, our school has it pretty bad with vaping; it’s affecting everyone. I hate to see my friends do it too because it’s impacting their life, some unaware of it. It’s separating them from the real world; they feel depressed and anxious; it makes them stuck in their zone, it’s not benefiting them long-term. I can tell when people do it, their grades drop, they don’t talk to many people as much, and they hang out with the wrong friend group, ultimately putting them in a bad spot. When they start getting used to it, they just start feeling disconnected from everyone else. There are so many events we are unable to hold because there’s so many people who don’t even want to partake in them. It seems like vaping is one of the components that’s leading to that. It ends up being what they rely on and they can’t get away from it, ultimately impacting them from doing anything enjoyable like clubs, sports teams, musicals, or even participating in class.
As a fellow student in high school surrounded by many other students of similar age, the effects of isolation (especially after covid 19), mental health struggles, and simply being a teenager in this society has greatly impacted many, often leading to the use of tobacco as a source of comfort. The pandemic has made us feel isolated; we’ve lost memories that we cannot get back, during a time where the most and best, occur. If people started vaping during covid, now they rely on it, and can’t go back. Once the pandemic started, it made my peers’ mental health go down because they were so isolated. That’s why everyone is here today; because you all want to take action.
Seeing how you’re part of The 84, you should use the information you’re learning and use it in your schools and communities to help lead the path for improvements. We are all well educated enough to know that this is an issue and it needs to be solved. You can do that by recruiting more people in The 84; do more work to reach younger audiences; and if you see the use of vaping, take action!
Youth can make a difference because we see it first hand at school; I know we do. If we’re seeing it, we should do something about it. When we’re young, we get educated about it and when we’re older, it’s something we take with us. I want people not to be scared or hold back, I want you all to take action; think of all of the people who you may, or may not know, who rely on tobacco and how it’s impacted their lives or possibly can. Each small step is leading to one big step for the future, and for a better world. My work may be small compared to a large scale but by each and every one of us putting forth what we have to offer, it will only become one big step for a better tomorrow. We may have had a rough past two years, but these do not define what the future years can hold, this is the time we all take action in what we stand by, to pave the way for the world we hope to see improvements in. That is exactly what The 84’s goal is, to take action. I will continue my education in subjects such as tobacco use, alongside others, through advocacy works, small and big. As should all of you, because we all hold the capacity and capability, and as one whole team, we can do it, I know we can! So it’s time to step up, and take action. Thank you!