County resident recognized for inspiring change

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HANCOCK COUNTY – Brenna Bastin, a county resident, is one of several young adults named as recipients of the Truth Initiative IMPACT scholarships. The organization behind Truth Initiative, a nationally recognized public education campaign, announced late last week three winners and five honorable mention recipients of annual truth IMPACT scholarships.

The eight young people, including Bastin, were selected from an annual application process open to students ages 16 to 25 across the United States.

The organization stated that as youth e-cigarette use remains a serious public health concern with more than two million teens currently vaping nicotine according to the 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey, the scholarship recipients are addressing the impact of tobacco in their local communities as well as helping to encourage their peers to quit.

The 2024 Truth IMPACT scholarship winners are, Ananya Pinnamaneni, San Ramon, Calif.; Ania Sacuedo-Cedillo, San Diego, Calif; and Mary Kimmerle, Lathrop, Mo. while the 2024 Truth IMPACT honorable mention recipients are, Aisha Ibrahim, Eagan, Minn.; Ammar Siddiqi, Woodlands, Texas; Brenna Bastin, New Palestine, Ind.; Luluya Tekle, Greeley, Colo.; and Veronica Nwanna, Sugar Land, Texas.

Bastin noted she was recognized as an honorable mention recipient for the work she did last summer for the “Tobacco Free Kids” initiative before leaving for college. While the scholarship was directly related to her efforts to raise awareness for the dangers of tobacco use among teens, Bastin noted that it’s not about winning the money but rather about educating her peers and young teens.

“I feel like every accomplishment I’ve received through advocacy is one of the perks, but I don’t do this for the scholarships,” Bastin said. “I like spreading the word on the dangers of tobacco and having the opportunity to help young kids realize these types of products are detrimental to their mental as well as physical health.”

The winners will each receive $5,000 in scholarship money to recognize and support community efforts while the honorable mention recipients, like Bastin, will receive $1,000 to help them continue to spread the word on the dangers of tobacco use.

Bastin, a freshman at the University of Indianapolis, says she’ll continue to fight the battle against tobacco use among teens while in college. She’s hoping to work for the Indiana Department of Health via an internship this summer to learn more about protecting Hoosiers.

Officials with the Truth Initiative IMPACT noted that the scholarship funds will help further the student’s education as they lead and inspire others to work toward public health advancements for their generation and in their communities.

“As this year’s truth IMPACT scholars, each of these eight young people serves as an example of their generation’s passion to help others and build healthy communities,” Amy Taylor, Chief Development and Engagement Officer at Truth Initiative said in a release. “Young people are building a better future. We’re inspired to stand alongside them and proud to lift their voices as leaders who are inspiring positive change.

Truth Initiative is the nation’s largest public health organization dedicated to achieving a culture where all young people reject smoking and vaping, with the view anyone can quit. The effort has helped drive youth smoking prevalence down from 23% in 2000 to a historic low of 2% in 2023, officials said.

Bastin says she’s encouraged by those “quitting rates” which continue to move in the right direction, but she won’t be happy until all teens turn away from tobacco use.

“I plan to continue to talk with state officials who will continue to make policies that will take dangerous products out of the hands of our youth,” Bastin said. “While the scholarship is a great perk to help me get through college and continue my advocacy in the public health field, it is not mandatory for me to continue on my advocacy journey.”