Rukaya Alrubaye, a junior at the Fayetteville campus, has been named a National Youth Advocate of the Year by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Rukaya was honored on May 5 for her leadership in the fight against tobacco at the Tobacco-Free Kids’ annual Youth Advocates of the Year Awards celebration in Washington D.C.
After learning about the Project Prevent Youth Coalition, Rukaya jumped at the opportunity to create a chapter at Haas Hall Academy to spread awareness about substance abuse. Her creativity has fueled her outreach initiatives, from hosting game nights to creating a tobacco awareness song parody. She notably planned and led a Do Not Do Drugs Handout event where members distributed doughnuts, wristbands and materials about Red Ribbon Week to engage with and educate their peers. Rukaya has also advocated at the state and federal level to increase funding for prevention and vaping awareness initiatives.
“We are thrilled to honor Rukaya as a National Youth Advocate of the Year,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “Seeing first-hand the impact of tobacco use on her community, Rukaya has become a passionate advocate for the health of her peers and community. She exemplifies the qualities of a new generation of leaders who are standing up to the tobacco industry and fighting with us for a healthier and more equitable future.”
Every year, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids honors a National Youth Advocate of the Year, four Individual Youth Advocates of the Year and a Group Youth Advocate of the Year. The winners receive scholarships to continue their tobacco prevention efforts and serve as youth ambassadors for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States, killing over 480,000 Americans and costing the nation $226 billion in annual smoking health care costs. In Arkansas, tobacco use claims 5,800 lives annually and costs $1.21 billion in health care bills each year. Currently, 9.7% (15,900) of Arkansas high school students smoke cigarettes, and 24.3% use e-cigarettes.
Rukaya was also recorded as the host of a training video that will be viewed by over 300,000 people globally on how to complete a survey in their communities that will measure the amount of tobacco, drugs, and nicotine in their communities.
Additional information about the youth award winners can be found at tfk.org/awards and more resources and information about tobacco can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.