COVID-19 has changed the way we lead our daily lives and HIPHI and the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii’s Youth Council is no exception. After having to cancel Take Down Tobacco, a national day of action last March (formerly Kick Butts Day), a representative group of youth started planning online experiences for their peers for the new school year.

Saturday, September 19 brought the first of these events: the Youth Council’s Kickoff event. Over 50 students logged in on September 19, (a Saturday morning), twice as many as have attended in-person events the past few years. Lieutenant Governor Josh Green welcomed  students and congratulated them on leading by example. The students were then trained by their peers using the new Taking Down Tobacco curriculum.  The hope is that they will continue to  educate more students in their own schools and communities on the dangers of commercial tobacco products and how the industry targets specific groups, driving health disparities.

Student leaders were not sure how their planning and delivery would be received by their peers but given the response at the end of the training it was a huge success. When asked for one word to describe the morning students replied with “Awesome”, “Amazing”, “Empowered”, “Informational”, “Impactful” and “Inspiring”, to name a few.

This was the first in a series of online events, with next month’s focus on creating awareness during a pandemic. A total of 19 public and private schools from 5 islands joined the kick-off meeting; if you know someone that might like to get involved, have them check out!