Youth in Action: Holbrook Sophomore Represents a Statewide Movement


Sarah Ryan

Rachel Cohan speaking about her passion for tobacco prevention and public health advocacy.

Sarah Ryan, Editor in Chief

Rachel Cohan, a sophomore at Holbrook Middle-High School, is an outspoken activist for youth substance abuse prevention. On January 30th, she was featured as a panelist at the Boston’s Youth in Action event in Roxbury. She spoke about tobacco prevention, tying in her personal experiences and representing the messages of The 84 Movement. The 84 is a statewide, youth tobacco prevention movement that works to empower and inspire young leaders. The number 84 represents the 84% of youth who did not smoke cigarettes when the movement began. Ten years later, that number has reached 92%.

As a member Statewide Leadership Team (SLT), Rachel helps plan events, facilitates workshops, recruits new members, and speaks on behalf of the movement. During the panel discussion, Rachel explained that she became involved in tobacco prevention after learning that the industry targets people with mental illnesses. She said, “Mental illness personally affects my life and my friends’ lives. It’s despicable that they would prey on… people [when] they’re most vulnerable.”

What keeps me coming back is the uniqueness of the job, knowing that I can make a real difference.”

— Rachel Cohan

Carly Caminiti, the program manager for The 84 Movement, was also a panelist at the event. She says that “a lot of people think the tobacco problem is solved,” but this is really not the case. Carly went on to explain that, while young people are less likely to smoke cigarettes, the industry continues to target them with other tobacco products, like e-cigarettes.

This is Rachel’s second year on the Statewide Leadership Team, after joining in November of 2016. She has spoken at major events, like Kick Butts Day and the Youth Power Summit, and has additionally represented the movement at local meetings, such as the Bulldogs Care panel she spoke on in September. Rachel says that she is “always grateful” for the opportunity to make a difference.

When asked about obstacles she has faced in her community, Rachel said that people aren’t always willing to admit that there is a substance abuse problem in Holbrook. In her opinion, people are quick to respond to every other issue, but when it comes to addiction, “we just never seem to get around to it.”

There are dozens of organizations that young people can become involved in, but to Rachel, The 84 is special. Her work in advocacy and education stands out to her among every other activity. She says, “What keeps me coming back is the uniqueness of the job, knowing that I can make a real difference.”