Students rewarded scholarships for taking action on tobacco
Two young tobacco control activists received $5,000 scholarships from Truth Initiative® for innovatively confronting tobacco use in their communities.
Alexia Okorogu and Allison Foster were awarded the 2017 Alma S. Adams Scholarship for Outreach and Health Communications to Reduce Tobacco Use Among Priority Populations, which recognizes undergraduate and graduate students for their commitment to raising awareness of tobacco’s harmful impacts in disproportionately affected communities. The scholarship, in its 11th year, is named after Dr. Alma S. Adams, a member of Congress representing North Carolina and founding board member of Truth Initiative.
Okorogu, a Redmond, Wash. native and freshman at Oakwood University, has been involved in tobacco prevention and advocacy activities in the African-American community since she was 9 years old. Most recently, she co-founded the youth advocacy group STAND OUT (Speaking Truth and New Direction), comprised of African and African-American youth between 12 and 18 years old. Together they work to eliminate health disparities in communities of color by taking a stand against tobacco, marijuana, vape products and alcohol. With STAND OUT, Okorogu has educated legislators about tobacco control policies, including raising the legal age to purchase tobacco to 21, spread tobacco prevention messages at community events and health fairs, created a “Tobacco 101” learning game and hosted a youth summit. Okorogu, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology, hopes to become a psychologist in a health service field.
Foster, an Elizabethton, Tenn. native and first-year graduate student at Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, has been working as a public health educator at the Carter County Health Department for the past two years. Her work focuses on helping pregnant women quit smoking, preventing secondhand smoke exposure and reducing youth initiation of tobacco use. She has developed mass media campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of tobacco use, led a tobacco prevention course with a junior high extended school program and advocated for stricter tobacco laws and policies. Foster, who is pursuing a master’s degree in epidemiology, hopes to work in a field that allows her to advocate for tobacco control policies that help combat health disparities and achieve health equity.
Five other young scholars earned honorable mention scholarships of $1,000 each, including Julia Dickerson from Jamestown, Ind., Ismail Mohamed from St. Cloud, Minn., Amanda Brenden from Eau Claire, Wis., Katelynd Todd from Berkeley, Calif. and Lex Martinez from Philadelphia.
The scholarship recognizes students in honor of its namesake, whose public service to North Carolina began in the 1980s when she became the first African-American woman ever elected to the Greensboro City School Board. Adams also taught art history for four decades at Bennett College, a historically black liberal arts college in Greensboro.