Youth Quest 2017 by Traci Saruwatari, Community Prevention Counselor
On March 13, 2017, Community Organizers from AADAP Community Prevention Unit with Youth Advocates from their respective afterschool programs on substance abuse prevention participated in Youth Quest 2017 held in Sacramento, California. Hosted by the California Youth Advocacy Network (CYAN), Youth Quest is an annual event that brings youth from all over California to dedicate an entire day to learn about current tobacco control efforts and build advocacy skills by meeting with legislators to share their local experiences. The theme of this year’s event was “Healthy You(th): Advocating for a Tobacco- Free California.” The focus of the youth training press conference and meetings with legislators was on how tobacco impacts youth with an emphasis on flavored products and tobacco in the retail environment.
The training portion led by CYAN Youth Board of Directors provided an energetic and informative session on tobacco’s impact on youth, and ways youth can take action to prevent tobacco use. The center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing of the American Lung Association provided input on how to conduct a meeting with a legislator. Our youth were one of the few groups who were fortunate enough to sit down with state legislators and staff to share their experiences in the field doing community-driven, policy based work in tobacco prevention and control highlighted by personal testimonies of seeing how policy changed norms and culture in their own communities.
The culmination of the event was a march by the youth to the State Capitol holding posters and chanting messages on how tobacco targets today’s youth as tomorrow’s customers while showing the commitment to fight against these harmful influences. It was an invigorating and inspiring experience to witness the passion the youth have for making their voices heard.