Thompson. Image: Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.

Special to Find It In Fondren®

The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi has selected fifteen high school students from across the state to serve on the Generation FREE Youth Advisory Board.

Jackson Academy students Carneilus Powers and Pier Thompson, a Fondren resident, are among those students. These youth leaders have committed an entire year to supporting the youth-led tobacco prevention efforts focused on informing Mississippi’s middle and high school students about the dangers of tobacco and e-cigarette use.

“Creating opportunities for youth to develop leadership and advocacy skills has been one of the most effective tools in our effort to reduce the youth smoking rates in Mississippi over the past two decades,” said Sandra Shelson, executive director of The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. “These young people represent some of the best and brightest that Mississippi has to offer, and we are extremely excited about the work they will be doing to improve public health in Mississippi.”

Generation FREE Youth Advisory Board members assist with the planning and coordination of academies and conferences as well as other events that reach thousands of middle and high school students each year. Later this year, these students will lead various workshops at Youth Advocacy Summits that will be held across the state.

“About 95% of smokers start before the age of 21, and of those smokers under the age of 18 and living in Mississippi, 68,000 will die prematurely from smoking,” said Michelle Borho, Generation FREE youth program coordinator for The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. “It’s vital that we provide prevention programming that is relevant to middle and high school students, which is why our Youth Advisory Board is integral to our efforts.”

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. More than 5,400 Mississippians die each year from tobacco-related diseases. Data shows that nearly one in three smokers will eventually die from a tobacco-related illness, which underscores the importance of educating Mississippi’s youth about the harmful effects of tobacco.

The mission of the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi is to provide educational information and awareness about the impact of tobacco on Mississippi and to improve the culture of health in Mississippi by applying lessons learned in tobacco prevention to other leading causes of death and disease impacting our State and Nation. Our successes working with public and private organizations from across the state and around the nation have positioned us as a public health leader, which allows us to advance initiatives focused on improving health outcomes in Mississippi.