Feb 1, 2022 4:25pm

My Otero County Juvenile Justice Board Partner Presentation Experience

Hi! My name is Sarette Patrick, I am 15 years old, and a junior at Pecos Cyber Academy, an online charter school. I currently live in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I have been a part of Evolvement and No Minor Sale since I was a sophomore. 

Evolvement is a program that works to involve youth in creating better communities for themselves and others and gives them a voice to speak out on issues important to them and issues that affect them. Through Evolvement, I work on No Minor which works to ban the illegal sale of tobacco products to minors and educating about the dangers of flavored tobacco products because they are found to be especially tempting to this age group. 

In my sophomore year, I was a bit too scared to participate in big events, and really just stuck to collecting Measures of Progress (MOPs). MOPs are surveys collected from the public which ask for their opinions on topics like tobacco use in schools and of flavored tobacco products. The No Minor Sale campaign MOP is an opinion survey on flavored tobacco products and data collected from the survey gives us an idea of public belief surrounding the topic. 

This year, my junior year, in early December 2021, I was given the amazing opportunity to present about the work of No Minor Sale to the Otero County Juvenile Justice Board. I decided to take the chance because I wanted to work on my public speaking skills, and I wanted to put myself out there and try to make a change in my community. 

The Otero County Juvenile Justice Board is a program working to improve the lives of youth living in Otero County and keep them out of the probation system. As the name suggests, the people a part of this program want to help guide the teens in their county to make good life decisions, gain a good education, and stay away from harmful things like tobacco products. They provide resources like tutoring, and they partner with programs to help their cause. 

The presentation I gave was with the purpose of informing the Justice Board of No Minor Sale’s work. We talked about the reasons we focus on flavored tobacco products (because they are the main type of product youth are attracted to), and we gave current specific data on cigarette and other tobacco product use in Otero County compared to New Mexico (did you know that Otero County had a higher percentage of youth using any tobacco product compared to the entirety of NM?). Also, we talked about the loopholes in laws that allow companies to still get away with selling products that youth find especially attractive (for example, only banning certain flavors). But that’s not all. We discussed how there is so much more work to be done in the prevention of flavored tobacco product sales to youth, and ways that change can be made. For example, we can put more power into local communities by removing preemption. This way, the ban of flavored tobacco products can be made from more local levels. Taking small steps, city by city, would help in the bigger picture of restricting the sale of all flavored tobacco products. To conclude the presentation, I focused on how action can be taken from an individual level- like becoming a No Minor Sale volunteer. 

This experience was very rewarding for me. I feel I actually made an impact in my community. The presentation went great, and the people of the Juvenile Justice Board were so willing to listen and learn all about the program. I answered the questions they had after the presentation, and I told them what brought me into advocating for this cause through Evolvement. However, I did not just make a great impact in my community- I also made an impact on myself. I have so much more confidence in my public speaking abilities, and my abilities to take action and take initiative. I feel like I left the presentation with a stronger belief in myself and my potential. All the fear I had at the beginning of the presentation was gone after a few minutes. The people were amazing and so open to what I had to say. They complimented my hard work and told me I should be proud of myself for what I was doing. They even invited me to stay the rest of their meeting, and to attend future Juvenile Justice Board meetings to hear about all else that was going on in Otero County.

I hope future work can bring much more change to New Mexico in the fight to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products. I also hope the percentage of youth using tobacco products in Otero County and all of NM can significantly decline in the years ahead. I hope more efforts are made to tighten the restrictions in place for the sale of tobacco to minors. Who knows, maybe what I did could be a step in helping save one teen from buying their first tobacco product, and possibly preventing a future addiction. 

I know that if another opportunity like this comes my way, I will pounce on it. So many good things came from what I did, and just knowing that makes me feel empowered. I as a teen can make a difference. I can make change happen in my community, and you can too! It isn’t hard at all!

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