Campus News

UK’s #iCANendthetrend youth advisory board members garner national award

Youth advisory board members for UK’s #iCANendthetrend program.
Youth advisory board members for UK’s #iCANendthetrend program. Photo provided.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 30, 2024) — A group of Kentucky high school students dedicated to tobacco prevention are receiving national recognition for their part in a University of Kentucky program.  

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has named the #iCANendthetrend Youth Advisory Board its 2024 Group Advocates of the Year. 

The students are part of #iCANendthetrend, a research-based program developed in the UK College of Education by Melinda Ickes, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion and assistant dean for research in the college. The #iCANendthetrend program is a “peer-to-peer” model, connecting elementary (starting in fourth grade), middle and high school students with college-age facilitators. The program has grown to include the youth advisory board, consisting of high-school advocates from across Kentucky.  

Recently, the youth advisory board worked to plan and implement the 2024 Kentucky Youth Tobacco Control Conference – Together Toward Tomorrow, as well as host the Ignite KYouth Advocacy Summit at the state capitol. They engaged more than 120 Kentucky youth to elevate their voice in support of tobacco prevention and stronger policies in Kentucky. In addition, they met with and educated more than 25 decision-makers on evidence-based practices related to stronger enforcement of the Tobacco21 law in Kentucky. 

The UK #iCANendthetrend youth advisory board was represented by members Jasmin Hernandez, Ksenia Miller and Saumya Sikhwal when they traveled to Washington D.C. earlier this month to be recognized during the 2024 Youth Advocates of the Year Awards celebration. 

The youth advisory board members for UK’s #iCANendthetrend program include: 

  • Jasmin Hernandez, Casey County  
  • Ksenia Miller, Kenton County  
  • Saumya Sikhwal, Warren County 
  • Olivia Hardigree, Shelby County  
  • Relena Aispuro, Shelby County 
  • Philena Ash, Bullitt County 

“I am so proud of the students on our youth advisory board for the work they are doing. They are incredibly worthy of being recognized with this award," Ickes said. "This award is a reminder of how essential the youth voice is to tobacco-free efforts in Kentucky and across the nation. Authentic youth leadership and adult engagement of youth in advocacy is as important a component as any. We are tackling an issue that primarily impacts young people; thus, it is pertinent that those affected be heard and looked upon to lead our movement." 

The #iCANendthetrend program has empowered more than 20,000 Kentucky youth and has been recognized nationally. In addition to the youth advisory board, college students serve as advocates to build awareness of the dangers of e-cigarette use by connecting with younger students. They demonstrate the cost associated with nicotine dependence and help younger students identify ways they are targeted by the tobacco industry. Integrating skill-building and hands-on activities also supports students to gain refusal and quitting strategies.  

The program has received an overwhelming positive response, with more than 90% of all students reached reporting they liked having college facilitators present and 87% indicating the program was helpful in empowering them to prevent vaping among their friends or in their school.   

In addition to health education and outreach efforts, UK faculty and students conduct and share research on the effectiveness of prevention and empowerment programs through a variety of research methods, such as focus groups and surveys. 

To learn more about #iCANendthetrend or to discuss partnerships to bring the program to other states, contact Ickes at or 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.