Rising senior Puneetha G. was recently invited to speak at the MD Anderson Texas Educators Summit on teen tobacco use and cessation programs. This issue is one that Puneetha has been passionately working to resolve.
Students Against Vapes was a project Puneetha began her junior year with hopes to educate peers and youth on the dangers of vaping, and to encourage teen cessation and deterrent actions. The project led her to create a website and YouTube channel raising awareness on the dangers of vaping to students and parents alike. At Village, she gave presentations to middle and high school students. From there, Puneetha thought bigger, reaching out to local leaders and politicians to advocate for restricted tobacco access to youth. She presented in front of the Houston City Council, urging for the Tobacco 21 Ordinance to be implemented in Houston to raise the vaping age from 18 to 21.
As Puneetha continued to delve into methods of communicating this issue, she came across MD Anderson’s ASPIRE Program which works with schools to increase awareness. She reached out to become involved and is now an ASPIRE Ambassador and part of the ASPIRE Youth Council. Puneetha won awards in the recent ASPIRE ATAT Media Festival for a video and a digital poster she designed. She even spoke with leadership here at Village, which led to The Village School joining the ASPIRE Program, signing a memorandum of understanding, and hanging her “Say No To Tobacco” poster up around campus.
Despite having already put so much of her time and talents towards this cause, Puneetha continues to find more ways to get involved. This summer, through The Village School’s Internship Program, she will be participating in the 2019 Summer Experience Program - Partnership for Careers in Cancer Science and Medicine at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center. The 10-week program will allow Puneetha to shadow experts in cancer care, be immersed in laboratory and clinical research activities and participate in lectures and presentations. She will also be one of two student leads on an emerging research project taking place at Village throughout the Fall semester. The data obtained through this research will be used to continue the education and eradication of teen consumption of tobacco and non-tobacco products. Puneetha is excited to be a part of the movement to make her generation the first tobacco-free generation. These well-deserved opportunities are a direct result of her passion to see change coupled with her determination to make things happen.