15 year old DJ Yearwood from Independence, Missouri is using his voice to better communities across the country. Read about his experiences in his own words about why it is important for young people to speak up and get involved!
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” This quote from former President Barack Obama perfectly describes why I am doing the work that I am. I believe that advocacy and grassroots work is some of the most important parts of the steps of change.
Through the organization Youth Ambassadors KC, I began working on the Kansas City campaign to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco. The outcome of this campaign would be to get a flavor ban ordinance passed through the Kansas City City Council. Through this campaign, I realized my “why”: Why is this issue important to me? Why do I feel that I can make a difference? Why am I the person that needs to step up? All of these questions can be answered by the quote from President Obama. If I want the issue of increasing adolescent smoking addictions to be addressed, I have to help address it. If I want to stop seeing vulnerable communities being taken advantage of, I have to put in the work to make a difference. If I want companies to stop capitalizing on other peoples’ addictions, illness, and death, I have to step up. Of course, this is a team and group effort, which is exactly why working with the American Heart Association is the perfect team for me.
One of the most important things about the American Heart Association is that they respect the fact that Youth Voices Matter. They not only respect this fact, but they also help provide a platform. While working on the KC Flavors campaign, I had a chance to speak with the Mayor of Kansas City, multiple people in the Kansas City City Council, influential people within the American Heart Association, and other youth advocates in the Kansas City-Metropolitan area. Outside of the KC Flavors campaign, I had an opportunity to speak at a virtual Town Hall based in Atlanta, Georgia to spread awareness about the importance of youth insight on this issue and issues like it, while also getting to hear from experts about the importance of addressing the issue. In late August, I got the opportunity to speak in a virtual National Town-Hall for Tobacco Endgame and hear from other influential youth leaders from around the country.
In my opinion, youth voices are at times just as important as adult voices on all issues; and even more important on specific ones. One thing that I always try to relay to friends and others around me is that relying on someone else to accomplish something for you is never the way to go. If you have the initiative to speak out about something, you already have the initiative to do something about it. Waiting for some other person or some other time has never sat right with me. This is exactly why I believe in the importance of youth relations with the American Heart Association.