Vaping and tobacco use among high school students have been on the rise — the use of e-cigarettes jumped 78% since last year. Rising senior and Katy,Texas, native Puneetha Goli is a young teen determined to fight this epidemic and raise awareness among her peers.
During her junior year at The Village School in Houston, Puneetha developed the Students Against Vapes project to educate her classmates on the dangers of tobacco. She led meetings and developed materials for her fellow students on how to quit tobacco use and avoid peer-pressure.
As a strong advocate against vaping, she reached out to local leaders and politicians to advocate for restricted tobacco access to youth. Puneetha even marched down to the local Houston City Council, to discuss the Tobacco 21 Ordinance for the city of Houston. As you know, Gov.Greg Abbott signed the ordinance into law June 9 for the state of Texas.
“My favorite parts of this whole experience has been educating my peers about the dangers of vaping, as well as speaking in front of the Houston City Council in order to advocate and push for harsher regulations against youth tobacco usage,” said Puneetha. “It’s encouraging to know that my voice is not only being heard but acknowledged. I hope that my work can serve as an example for other students to act upon something that they strongly believe in.”
She’s not done with her work, she 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.
As Puneetha continued to delve into methods of communicating this issue, she found MD Anderson’s ASPIRE Program which works with schools to increase awareness of the issue. She became involved and is now an ASPIRE Ambassador and part of the ASPIRE Youth Council. Puneetha has gone on to win awards in the recent ASPIRE ATAT Media Festival for a video and a digital poster she designed. She even brought ASPIRE to Houston, where she brought the program on campus at The Village School. She spoke with leadership, leading The Village School to join the ASPIRE Program, sign a memorandum of understanding, and showcasing her “Say No To Tobacco” poster up around campus.
This summer, through The Village School’s Internship Program, she is 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 research activities and participate in lectures and presentations. She will also be one of two students 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 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.