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Two area students picked for state tobacco Youth Advisory Board

Two area students have joined statewide youth tobacco use prevention efforts as members of the Generation Free youth advisory board.

Katie Sproles, from Brookhaven High School,  and Carleigh Linderman, of Silver Creek, who attends Lawrence High School, were selected by The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi for this task, along with 13 other high school students from across the state. These teen leaders have committed one year to supporting youth-led efforts focused on informing Mississippi’s middle and high school about the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarette use.

Sandra Shelson, executive director of PHM, says the program is about creating opportunities for youth to develop leadership and advocacy skills while reducing smoking rates among teens in the state.

“These young people represent some of the best and brightest that Mississippi has to offer,” Shelson said, “and we are extremely excited about the work they will be doing to improve public health in Mississippi.”

Sproles said she wanted to be involved with the board to help high school students learn about the dangerous issues of tobacco use.

“We will be working on social media posts and youth conferences to reach the most people we can,” Sproles said. “The point is to spread as much information as possible and hopefully prevent people from using tobacco products.”

Generation Free youth advisory board members assist with the planning and coordination of academies, conferences and other events that reach out to thousands of middle and high school students each year. Later in the school year, these students will lead various workshops at youth summits held across the state.

“About 95 percent of smokers start before the age of 21,” said Michelle Borho, Generation Free program coordinator, “and of those smokers under the age of 18 and living in Mississippi, 68,000 will die prematurely from smoking.”

In addition to learning more about tobacco-related health issues and sharing that information, Sproles feels she is also benefitting in other ways.

“I’m learning to be more comfortable with meeting others and speaking to a group,” she said.

Sproles, a 14-year-old freshman, hopes to serve on the board through her senior year at Ole Brook.

Carleigh Linderman

Katie Sproles