Youth Kicks! An LGBTQ Youth Counter Tobacco Project’s Next Steps

by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate

Some of you may remember the LGBTQ youth anti-tobacco campaign, Youth Kicks, I was working on with the National Youth Advocacy Coalition. We started a little less than a year ago with the staff support NYAC, and a few of us met up at Creating Change to discuss strategy and goals. Unfortunately, there were some challenges as NYAC closed its doors back in the Spring. This came as quite a shock to the LGBTQ and youth communities across the country, and the loss of NYAC leaves a big gap to fill in the LGBTQ community.

Shortly after NYAC shut its doors, we at the Network decided to take on the project, and even after the timeframe of the project ended, many of the youth graciously agreed to volunteer even after this time. With conference calls once or twice a month, these youth experts came together to form some what-we-believe-to-be effective strategies to aid in harm reduction of tobacco prevalence in LGBTQ youth communities.

Finally after many conversations of discussing the project, we decided on some messaging and image concepts, which were sent to yet another dedicated volunteer, Jean Calomeni of Project Filter, who is responsible for some stellar ads in response to Camel Snus’ aggressive targeting of LGBT communities.

Although I am afraid this is just a teaser as the final product is not complete, though the drafts are quite stunning, so you’ll have to hang tight but expect some great designs that you’ll be able to share at your agencies and beyond.

However I would like to take a moment to introduce our committee members:

Carla Mena was born in Lima, Peru. She came to the US in the year 2001; she graduated from high school with an honors GPA and became the first National Honors Society Hispanic member at Sanderson High School in Raleigh. During her freshmen year of high school, Carla joined El Pueblo’s youth (No Fumo) program and has been a key volunteer since then; it was through El Pueblo and her own experiences that Carla discovered her passion for social justice. Carla is currently attending Meredith College, majoring in Biology. At Meredith, Carla has organized several programs to make the Meredith community more aware of the issues affecting the Latino community, as well as events to share its cultural richness. Carla is currently serving as the Youth Reproductive Health (Our Rights Have no Borders) Intern at El Pueblo Inc. Carla is passionate about access to higher education, human rights and social justice.

Ariel Cerrud is a graduate of Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, majoring in Political Science with a Minor in Communication Studies. As a youth activist, he has advocated on behalf of various governmental, non-governmental, community and advocacy entities. Ariel’s advocacy work has revolved around youth focused areas including youth character and leadership development and health disparities in young people including working towards curving adolescent risky behaviors.  Ariel’s most recent advocacy work has been on behalf of Advocates For Youth, as a Peer Educator for, a website by and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) youth. Ariel also provides content and materials for Amplify Your Voice, Advocates for Youth new interactive website that serve as a vehicle for youth-led, grassroots online activism. In his professional life, Ariel works as a Program Director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland. Under his role, he provides guidance to youth ages 6-18 and instills within each of them a sense of belonging, power and influence over their lives. He works to enable all youth to reach their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens and instills these potentials in every program and activity he leads.

Chase Andrews is a 24 year old, Atlanta native and a recent graduate of Georgia State University. He holds a Bachelors of Arts in Communication with a minor in Psychology. He’s is the former Program Coordinator for the Department of Student Health Promotion at his alma mater. He got his start as a peer health educator in 2005, from there his interest in health education and HIV prevention blossomed. In August of 2010, he joined the AID Atlanta staff as the Recruitment and Retention Specialist for the Evolution Project. When he’s not doing HIV prevention work he’s a filmmaker. In 2009 he started a small production company, Eight Peace Productions, LLC. He’s currently working on short film entitled: Emotionally Safe Sex: Beyond Barrier Methods. Ultimately, Chase aims to combine his passion for LGBT youth, HIV prevention, and film to create provocative media/art.

Lexi Adsit, a familiar face, is a fierce queer transwomyn of color. She blogged for us at the Philly Trans Health Conference. She is studying at San Francisco State University majoring in Raza Studies with a minor in counseling. Her activism led her to many non-profits in the San Francisco Bay Area and a larger network of like-minded people whom she has worked with since high school. She is in the middle of various projects, including YouthKicks, ranging from being an online peer educator with Advocates For Youth (AFY) to interning at the ACLU of Northern California in the Friedman Education Youth Program to more recently working as a Coordinator for YouthNoise.  She is also a proud part of the femme shark and INCITE! Movement. She dreams of being a counselor for queer youth and run a homeless shelter for queer and trans youth in the Bay Area.

Ernesto, another familiar face, is a twenty-something aged youth from Portland Oregon. Currently he works for Cascade AIDS Project as youth technology specialist where he engages young people in creating healthy sexuality for themselves and their peers through social media. As an LGBT youth of color Ernesto has worked in various positions in local, state and national organizations to address some of the serious health inequities that exist for young people in America. As a 4th year member of Advocates for Youth initiatives, Ernesto is glad to bring his diverse experiences to the work he does in creating safe and supportive spaces for youth. You may also recall Ernesto served on our Steering Committee and was featured in a recent issue of Sharing Our Lessons: From Queer Youth to Public Health Leader.

Published by Emilia Dunham, MPP, MBA

Emilia Dunham is currently a Project Manager at MassHealth/Department of Public Health, and formerly the Project Manager of the Life Skills project at The Fenway Institute, an HIV intervention study for young transgender women. Emilia worked at Fenway for 7 years, first as a Quality Control and Regulatory Assistant mainly involved with biomedical HIV prevention trials, before serving as the Program Associate for The Network for LGBT Health Equity, a network instrumental in many national LGBT health policy improvements. She is also involved with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, serving as a Steering Committee member and the Policy Committee Co-Chair, an organization largely responsible for the recent passage of the Trans Rights Bill. Additionally she serves as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, Co-Chair of the Recommendations Committee. Emilia received a Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University. There she served as President of the LGBTQ student group where she planned programs such as Pride Week, Transgender Day of Remembrance, and AIDS Week. In addition, she advocated for LGBTQ inclusive policies and programming on campus such as a Gender Neutral Housing program, an LGBTQ Center and the expansion of Women’s Studies to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Emilia recently earned a Master of Public Policy and Master of Business Administration in health policy and management from the Brandeis Heller School School for Social Policy and Management.

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