Leading The Charge, TogetherHey! It’s Ashlyn C and Abbey T, seniors at Charlottesville High School. We have both been a part of Y Street for two years. As Y Street activists and leadership team members, through the Rev Your Bev campaign, we have made a commitment with the nutrition director and the principal of our school to have a hydration station available to students and staff at least once a week. This campaign is important to me, Ashlyn, because growing up, my family was not always the healthiest. I grew up around plenty of junk food and sugary drinks. My dad has always been my role model, so when he started changing his eating habits, to better himself and his family, I followed him. He also pushed me to do more sports, so as a student-athlete, it is crucial that I stay hydrated, not only to perform well on the field but to do well in school.
Rev Your Bev is a campaign that really hits close to home for me, Abbey, as well. I remember learning about it for the first time and immediately being engaged in its mission. I was really excited to get involved and I was already brainstorming ideas of events and things I could plan with other Y-Sters before the meeting had ended. Rev Your Bev is important to me because I’ve seen multiple members of my family struggle with health issues such as heart attacks and diabetes. It’s been really difficult seeing my loved ones deal with these issues so I made a promise to myself to be healthier. I drink water every single day and there’s nothing that I enjoy more.
On February 3, we were able to sit down with our school division’s nutritional director, Mr. Carlton Jones. Last year he met with us about our Great Starts with Breakfast campaign and he was a great help. We were very appreciative of him sitting down to meet with us again, and he was very accommodating for this year’s Rev Your Bev campaign. He signed a pledge saying that we will be able to set up our hydration stations in our cafeteria at least once per week, but has instead decided to allow us to have them in place every single day of the week. I, Abbey, am overwhelmingly grateful for his support because not only will I be able to drink refreshing and good-tasting water even after I run out of water that I’ve brought from home, but so will my peers. It’s especially good for students that don’t have access to water at home.
On February 6, we hosted an event, in which we gave out water bottles to our classmates and allowed them to decorate the water bottles with stickers, washi tape, markers, etc. This event was held in the cafeteria during our two lunches. This was also the kickoff event for our new hydration station that would be placed in our cafeteria. We had about 13 Y Street youth helping with this event. I, Ashlyn, believe a lot of students were very excited about this event. It was something new, different, and caught a lot of people’s interest. Many students were interested in the hydration station we just had put in place, which encouraged them to try the new and flavored water at our school. And throughout the week since the event, I, Abbey, have seen students go and refill said water bottles using the hydration station, and it’s something that I’ve heard students chatting about.
We think youth activism is important because society has put in our heads that we, as teenagers, can’t make a change because we “don’t know what we are talking about.” Many young people don’t like listening to adults, as it makes them feel insignificant. Interacting with the students at our school allows us to introduce them to something they may not have heard of and educate them on the importance of drinking water on a connected level. Many teenagers drink coffee to stay focused (guilty as charged with younger me! – Ashlyn), but changing that coffee to water has changed my whole focus in school.
Y Street allows us to share our message on the scale as large as the entire state of Virginia. Along with Charlottesville High, there are 21 other schools that are working on the same campaigns, which makes us that much more mission-oriented as a youth. Y Street also gives us the opportunity to create life-long connections with other youth who have the same mindset and drive as us. Our role in our high school is so important. Within the first six months of the 2019-2020 school year, we were able to give every student the chance to be hydrated and excited about drinking water, and that was a huge win for us!