Zachary Rafael may only be in the seventh grade, but he’s already made strides in educating students and the public about the harmful effects of tobacco.
Zachary is president of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) at Sarasota Middle School. The group uses fun activities to educate students about the effects of smoking.
Zachary’s advocacy started on a personal level: Both of his parents used to smoke. Since he joined SWAT, his mom has kicked the habit, and his dad is slowly quitting, too.
“Being around it gave me headaches and just made me feel nauseous,” Zachary says.
He tries to set a good example for his younger sister, Brianna, and helped organize Kick Butts Day, a carnival day that educates young people about tobacco through rides and games.
The Sarasota Coalition on Substance Abuse awarded Zachary the Shining Star Award in March, for his diligent work to create positive changes in his school and community.
“It doesn’t matter how old you are,” Zachary says. “You can do whatever you want, as long as you put your mind to it.”