YOUTH AMBASSADOR PROGRAM
The Youth Ambassador Program is a highly successful national level program designed by the Long Island Chapter's very own Jennifer Zwilling. Once a year a new group of teens, with or without Tourette, who have applied and have been accepted into the program from all over the country, meet in Washington D.C. As part of the training, Youth Ambassador trainees also participate in a visit to the Hill where they lobby senators and congressmen to promote awareness about Tourette and to obtain educational and research funding. Back in their home states, Youth Ambassadors go into classrooms to speak with classmates of children with Tourette, and do presentations on what it means to have Tourette. They engender a new sensitivity, awareness and tolerance that enrich and greatly improve the classroom experience for the child with Tourette and his/her classmates. Informational materials are given to every student that is in a classroom visited by a Youth Ambassador.
2016 Youth Ambassador Presentation in Carle Place
Long Island Youth Ambassadors are teens selected through an application process to attend formal training in Washington, D.C. The selected teens are trained to educate students about Tourette, and they also participate in a trip to the Hill where they, along with other delegates, meet with US congressmen and senators lobbying to promote Tourette awareness that leads to federal funding for education and research and other government actions and policies that impact the Tourette community.
How Did The Program Get Started?
In 2002, the Youth Ambassador Program was founded when Jennifer Zwilling, along with her mother, Jane, and siblings Amanda and Eric, decided to develop a program to educate their peers about Tourette disorder. While listening to her mother speak to teachers about Tourette, Jen realized that kids should also be spoken to, and that there is usually more of an impact when kids talk to other kids. From that, the Youth Ambassador Program was born, and has been inspiring kids affected by Tourette across the country ever since. Jennifer Zwilling was a 2007 BR!CK Award winner from the Do Something! organization, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards 2008 High School Honoree from NY State (only one High School Honoree is selected from each State!), and has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, including the November 24, 2008 edition of People magazine as one of four kids chosen as the Bravest Kids, part of 2008 People Heroes Among Us Awards.
Youth Ambassador featured on Channel 12's Making a Difference
Who Can Be A Youth Ambassador?
A Youth Ambassador does not have to have Tourette Syndrome, but he/she must be committed to the program’s goals and want to promote understanding of the disorder. Youth Ambassadors must be between 13 and 19 years old, and be paired with an adult (generally a parent or adult guardian) who will take on the responsibility of helping with the program, the schedule, and outreach.
Youth Ambassadors must have a clear understanding of Tourette. Even with training, Youth Ambassadors must be responsible to becoming proficient in the information. Public speaking and good writing skills are required. Good interpersonal skills and patience dealing with others are a MUST.
What Are The Responsibilities?
In addition to presenting to their peers, Youth Ambassadors also meet with politicians, appear in the media and, in coordination with their local Tourette Association chapter, assist with fundraising and awareness raising campaigns.
The time commitment can become quite substantial and may even include presenting during school hours. Youth Ambassadors and their parents must carefully consider their availability.
What Are The Benefits?
Youth Ambassadors will find there are many personal benefits, such as learning to work as team members and developing increased confidence in public speaking. Youth Ambassadors learn skills that they will use for the rest of their lives and at the same time are helping to enlighten our generation about Tourette.
Youth Ambassador Accomplishments Include:
Presentations to elementary, middle and high schools in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Presentations to undergraduate and graduate college classes in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Various interviews with local newspapers, TV and radio stations, and other media sources regarding Tourette.
Long Island Youth Ambassadors have been recipients of numerous awards, including : Yes I Can! Award, News 12 Students Making a Difference Award, Do Something Brick Award, Newsday Extraordinary Senior Award, People Magazine Heroes Among Us Award, Prudential Spirit of Community Service-NY State HS Honoree, Induction into the Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame, Town of Oyster Bay-Kids Helping Kids-Kid of Distinction Award, Volunteer Service Award from President's Council on Service and Civic Participation, Leader of Tomorrow Award from Association of Fundraising Professionals, Coca-Cola Scholars Award.
How Can You Help? Schedule a free 30-40 minute presentation given by a Tourette Association Youth Ambassador.
Youth Ambassadors and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D)
YOUTH AMBASSADORS IN D.C.
Our Youth Ambassadors bravely advocate each year in Washington D.C. for better laws and research funding for people with Tourette. Here are some pictures taken over the years of our teens and and lawmakers of Congress.
YOUTH AMBASSADORS PRESENTING IN THE COMMUNITY
Our Youth Ambassadors present in schools throughout Long Island to teach both children and educators about Tourette and what it means to live with the disorder.