Javonne spent his high school years as a champion for public health issues affecting youth. He got his start as a student leader in the Bronx with the St. Barnabas Hospital (now SBH Health System) Teen Health Center, and later became an active participant in Public Health Solutions’ NYC Smoke-Free student engagement initiative, Reality Check.

Over 15,000 of NYC public high school students smoke, and as a result, one-third of them will die prematurely. PHS’ NYC Smoke-Free program combats this trend through the student led Reality Check initiative. Students who join Reality Check chapters in their borough participate and lead activities and events to help expose the tobacco industry and reduce the number of teens that initiate smoking.

NYC Smoke-Free partnered with the St. Barnabas Hospital Teen Health Center to raise awareness about tobacco proliferation in underserved neighborhoods. This partnership resulted in Jayvonne being one of just four students selected to participate in the 2016 Truth Initiative Youth Summit in Orlando, Florida. Jayvonne proposed and was featured in a powerful video that takes a hard look at the tobacco industry and its targeting of African American youth and communities of color.

We reached out to Jayvonne and asked him to share his experience as a youth advocate and student leader.

PHS What made you decide to join the Bronx Reality Check program?

JH I was working at the Teen Health Center for the first time in the summer of 2015, and joined the HIV group. We all presented projects at the end of the program, and I found the tobacco group’s presentation to be very interesting and in a way, relatable. In my junior year of high school, I was brought back to work for the Teen Health Center and had an opportunity to join the Reality Check program.

PHS What do you believe are the biggest issues in the fight against Big Tobacco?

JH I think one of the biggest issues in the fight against Big Tobacco is prevention. Tobacco is everywhere, and to prevent it, it will take a lot. Many people who already smoke won’t quit or they find it difficult to quit, so the smoke is still in the air for non-smokers to breathe in. Tobacco products are still readily available on shelves for sale.

PHS Why are youth programs like Bronx Reality Check important?

JH Youth programs like Bronx Reality Check are important, because it teaches youth in the Bronx of the dangers of smoking. It has the capability of decreasing smoking rates in the future. When you learn about these dangers at a young age, it sticks with you. Programs like this also allow youth to meet new people, and it shows adults that we care about our health and that we are aware.

“It shows adults that we care about our health and that we are aware.”

PHS NYC Smoke-Free is a program of the nonprofit Public Health Solutions. We strive to create healthier families and communities in New York City. Do we accomplish that through Bronx Reality Check? If yes, how?

JH It can be accomplished through Bronx Reality Check. Connecting with youth is a key factor because the youth is the future. Informing them now is very effective because it can stick with them through not only their youth years, but also their adult years.

PHS Has your experience with Bronx Reality Check and the 2016 Truth Initiative Youth Summit impacted your college life?

JH Tobacco control is still a passion. I do projects and write papers based on my experience and knowledge learned to educate fellow students. I share my video with others to let them in on what is going on in my hometown.

“Tobacco control is still a passion.”

Jayvonne graduated from the High School of Computers and Technology in the Bronx in June of 2017. He is currently attending Alfred State University.

I think more teens like Jayvonne should have opportunities to lead and inspire 

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