Central High School Student Encourages Park Leaders to Create Tobacco-Free Parklands

Shenandoah, VA (October 28, 2021) – This week, Virginia park recreation experts and leaders from across the commonwealth gathered in Harrisonburg for the 2021 Virginia Recreation & Park Society‘s (VRPS) Annual Conference. Amidst the three days of presentations, exhibit halls, and networking opportunities was one of Shenandoah’s own high school students, Cheyenne Estep, advocating for healthier outdoor public spaces for all Virginians.

Central High School senior and Y Street youth member Cheyenne Estep presented on establishing and sustaining tobacco-free and e-cigarette-free parklands as a deliberate effort to create healthier outdoor experiences for Virginians and raise awareness on the harms of secondhand smoke and vape aerosol. Y Street youth members like Cheyenne strive to make sure Virginians have equitable access to clean and healthy spaces to be active and enjoy the outdoors.

One way they do that is by rallying their communities behind the Share The Air campaign. Share The Air aims to create 100% tobacco-free parklands and public spaces by urging parks and recreation directors and other local government officials to adopt voluntary policies that promote tobacco-free, smoke-free, and vapor-free outdoor environments.

“Speaking at the VRPS Annual Conference was a great opportunity to share my experiences with parks and recreation directors from across the state,” Cheyenne stated. “It’s important to me and my peers that parks, public spaces, and events promote healthy lifestyles, and that’s why I hope more parks departments decide to partner with Share The Air.”

The Town of Shenandoah has already started taking necessary steps by creating Tobacco-Free Play Zones and partnering with Share The Air. In January 2021, Shenandoah’s Mayor Clinton Lucas, Jr. signed the Share The Air commitment form, committing the city to provide tobacco-free and vape-free parklands, park facilities, and open public spaces.

Y Street is the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s (VFHY) statewide volunteer initiative for high school students. VFHY Executive Director Marty Kilgore thanked Cheyenne and other Y Street youth for their continued advocacy throughout the commonwealth as they work towards healthier outdoor public spaces for their communities. “The advocacy work that Cheyenne and her Y Street peers are doing is critical in empowering youth to make healthy choices and I commend the initiative and leadership Y Street’s youth members demonstrate every day in their communities across Virginia.”

About the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY)

Established in 1999 by the Virginia General Assembly, the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth empowers Virginia’s youth to make healthy choices by reducing and preventing youth tobacco and nicotine use, substance use, and childhood obesity. 

VFHY takes a comprehensive approach to prevention work that includes reaching about 50,000 children each year through classroom-based prevention programs in public schools, after-school programs, community centers, day cares and prevention programs across the state. VFHY’s award-winning marketing campaigns deliver prevention messaging to more than 500,000 children annually. In addition, VFHY’s research program provides scientific insight on methods to effectively reduce tobacco use. Since 2002, VFHY has funded 40 large research projects at universities throughout Virginia. For more information, visit www.vfhy.org.

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