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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Rebekah Bolser: Welcome To Portsmouth

At the age of 11, Rebekah Bolser was convinced she could change the world. So, when she viewed a public service announcement featuring actress and singer Selena Gomez, who at 17 became the youngest UNICEF ambassador ever, Bebekah became motivated to join and begin her career of activism.

19-year-old Bekah, as she is affectionately known, says, "I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I doubted my ability to take on a project just because of my age." And, although she has been described with the girlish platitude of "sugar, spice, and everything nice," she already has a strong track record of activism while rocking campaigns and important movements.

Bolser is a 2013 graduate of Hamilton High School. She has just completed her freshman year at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she is pursuing a bachelor's degree in Diplomacy and Global Politics and a second major in Strategic Communications.

Bekah's long list of credentials include the following:
    * Working with OneCommunity, an art exhibit that challenges elementary school students to create artwork that depicts issues within their community including racism, discrimination, and immigration.
    * Founding Teens Against Teen Suicide at 14 years old, an organization dedicated to raising awareness on issues surrounding teen suicide and depression and began "teen on teen counseling" groups at local high schools where students could seek tutoring, advice, and mentorship from their classmates in an open, inclusive environment.
    * Establishing the Pocahontas Project in 2013, a locally based project that seeks to teach students about environmental sustainability through art.
    * Starting EveryGirl, a scholarship fund and leadership immersion forum dedicated to giving incoming college freshman girls the resources and skills needed to become leaders on their campuses.
    * Currently serving as the USA Chapter Chairperson for the International Youth Council, a civil society organization founded at the Youth Assembly at the United Nations, where she works to create national and global programs that encourage young leaders to get involved with issues surrounding the Millennium Development Goals, Post2015 Agenda, and the role of young people in creating these policies. Her current initiatives also involve comprehensive sex education and reproductive justice.
    * Acting as director of the Student Voice Project in which she oversees student representatives of Ohio and also serves as the chair for the Congressional Youth Council Implementation Committee. * Publishing frequently for several sources including the Huffington Post, ProgressWomen, and GenYNot.
Bolser says her time is recently divided between two projects very dear to her heart. This year, she was selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University, which has catalyzed her work with women of low-income backgrounds. The other project is called “A Seat At the Table,” and it has her working with a team of young people to create civic education programs for local high school students that focus on youth policy and what youth-friendly communities look like while building stronger relationships with their local city council representatives.

Bolser claims her favorite quote is “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption.” (Kurt Cobain). She believes when young people raise their voices and stand together, they can make positive change in their communities. She is very passionate about several issues and topics including gender equality, safe water access, and education. Bolser will be studying International Development and Social Change and hopes to continue empowering young people throughout college and beyond.

Rebekah Bolser has graciously accepted an invitation to come to Portsmouth and take part in the Scioto County International Overdose Awareness Day event at the Fastop Market, 1735 8th Street on Monday, August 31 from 10AM-3PM. The Portsmouth City Health Department is extending an invitation to all to attend and hear Bekah share her comments about the day.

Bolser recently lost her Uncle Josh to the Ohio heroin epidemic. She wrote an article on July 7 for the Huffington Post titled "On Heroin, Ohio, and Storytelling for Change" describing her loss. She said:

I feel like there's a lot of fear and anger surrounding the Ohio heroin epidemic. And that sometimes these emotions can get in the way of recognizing the lives being lost, the stories behind those lives, and communities where these issues come from. My uncle overdosed and passed away in May and I've had a hard time talking about these issues and his life, but I've decided to work through it in the best way I know how: by writing about it and sharing his story, and my story.

I've been surrounded by drugs since I was very young and I think that communities like Hamilton (specifically the part of Hamilton where I grew up) are often dismissed when discussing these issues. And the first step to addressing these issues is talking about them within the context of the communities where these issues develop.

I constantly miss Josh and writing this hasn't changed that, but I felt like this is something I have to talk about and I couldn't do that without centering around his life and his passing. Rest in peace, Uncle Josh. I love and miss you every second.”

By all indications, Rebekah Bolser is destined to be an invaluable human resource for America as she continues to mature and to accept many leadership roles. Her voice is wise beyond her years, and one must certainly marvel at how many marvelous accomplishments she has achieved at such a young age. Perhaps most importantly, her complete commitment to action legitimizes her ability to help enact needed change.

Please come August 31 to help welcome Bekah to Portsmouth. The health department is so happy that she can attend the local International Overdose Awareness Day event.

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