Skip to main content
Press Release

Truth Initiative® awards five truth IMPACT scholarships to young adult leaders making a difference in their communities

Recipients from California, Georgia, Maine, North Dakota and Texas are taking action to address youth nicotine use and its impact on mental health, social justice, and the environment 

Download release

Truth Initiative, the organization behind the highly effective truth® youth smoking, vaping and nicotine public education campaign, announced today the five winners of its annual truth IMPACT scholarship. Each year, Truth Initiative puts out a call for young people to apply by sharing how they are taking action in their communities to address tobacco and vaping nicotine. The 2021 application asked young people to specifically share their efforts addressing the impact of nicotine on mental health, social justice, and the environment – all critical issues that are interconnected to tobacco use and vaping nicotine. Selected from applications submitted by young people from across the United States, Truth Initiative is excited to award each of the five winners with $3,000 in scholarship money to recognize and support the actions they are taking to address smoking, vaping and nicotine use in their communities.

The 2021 truth IMPACT scholarship recipients are:

  • Alyson Yee, of Elk Grove, California
  • Xavier Lynum, of Austell, Georgia
  • Jake Warn, of Winslow, Maine
  • Ellie Burmeister, of Grand Fork, North Dakota
  • Pascal Bakari, of Irving, Texas

All of the young winners are already taking action to help end youth nicotine use for good. The scholarship funds will further their education as they work to lead and inspire others in their communities especially in regard to improving the availability of mental health resources for young people, the state of social justice in their community, and limiting the impact tobacco products have on the environment.

“We are thrilled to announce this year’s truth IMPACT scholars. Each recipient serves as a shining example of their generation’s fight for healthy communities and the important role young people play in building a better future,” said Robin Koval, CEO and President of Truth Initiative. “Each scholar is using their experience of how they have been personally affected by youth nicotine use to make a positive difference in the lives of their peers. We exceedingly proud of and inspired by their work to lift up young voices and create change in their communities.

E-cigarette use among young people remains at epidemic levels, and public health organizations have continued to fight the youth nicotine epidemic through education, proven-effective tools, and sound scientific research. The latest 2021 National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that youth vaping remains a serious public health threat with over 2 million high school and middle school students using e-cigarettes. This is especially troubling given the fact that nicotine can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression in addition to the physical health risks associated with its use.

Advocates in action

The scholarship winners’ announcement follows the launch of the Breath of Stress Air effort from truth, which is debunking the marketing of e-cigarettes as a stress reliever and calls out the tobacco industry for selling vaping as a way to deal with stress, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when in fact, research shows vaping nicotine can worsen mental health issues including anxiety symptoms and stress levels.

As a former vape user, IMPACT scholarship winner, 21-year-old Jake Warn knows first-hand the mental health impact of vaping nicotine. As a student at Thomas College, he is passionate about sharing his story and the effects vaping nicotine had on his mental health. An athlete and National Honor Society member, he began using vape products in high school as a way to fit in. But he quit using e-cigarettes after it took a toll on his mental and physical health and is now an advocate supporting actions to protect young people from the risks of nicotine addiction and inspiring other young people to quit.

“The reason this work is so important to me is that I know, speaking from experience, that nicotine addiction is scarier and more real than people think,” said Warn. “It’s important to share and spread this information as much as possible!”

The youngest scholarship recipient this year, 17-year-old Alyson Yee, described how nicotine addiction has impacted young people and why she is passionate about educating her peers.

“Going back to school this year made me even more aware of how much tobacco, and particularly vaping, has affected my life. I never realized how prevalent vaping is at my school,” said Yee. “Every time I walk into the bathrooms, people are openly vaping and I smell the strong odor from vape pens. This makes me determined to continue to fight against tobacco use and hope for a future where we shun the tobacco industry entirely. It’s time to take a stand. Because if we don’t, who will?” 

Resources to help those looking to quit

Truth Initiative provides support and resources designed specifically for young people to help them quit e-cigarette use through its award-winning and lifesaving nationally recognized truth campaign. More than 435,000 young people have enrolled in This is Quitting from truth—a free and anonymous text message quit vaping program for teens and young adults. A recent clinical trial shows This is Quitting increased e-cigarette quit vaping rates by nearly 40% among young adults aged 18-24 compared to a control group. 

truth also offers a free, comprehensive digital curriculum, Vaping: Know the truth, that gives students the facts about the health dangers of e-cigarettes, its impact on mental health and the help they need to quit. Parents and educators can learn more about the curriculum at: Truthinitiative.org/curriculum. For help with quitting vaping, teens and young adults can visit thetruth.com or text “DITCHVAPE” to 88709 for free resources.

Take action and learn more

Many of the 2021 truth IMPACT Scholarship winners will participate in a Moment of Action on April 27th. As part of the event, young people nationwide are mobilizing online and in person by taking a collective breath to demand decision-makers declare vaping a mental health issue. Learn more about how to take part in the Moment of Action and stand with truth in advocating for young people’s mental health by visiting thetruth.com/mentalhealth2022.

Anyone can join truth in taking action to address mental health, social justice, and the environment as it relates to youth nicotine use. To learn more about the annual truth IMPACT Scholarship or get involved with truth visit thetruth.com.

Download release