Vision in Living Life – Change is Possible
Vision in Living Life – Change is Possible (V.I.L.L.) is a youth leadership program that engages Saint Paul youth in activities that allow them to experience growth from within. V.I.L.L. is a program of Aurora-St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation and is led by Damone Presley.
The goal of the program is to involve youth in a range of activities and educational opportunities that promote and support their passage to being healthy, responsible and law-abiding citizens. The program also strives to show the community that youth are an asset and can bring about positive change. The youth are equipped with the tools they need to succeed, such as self-confidence, leadership and communication skills. Through community service, the group learns the importance of connection in the community. Vision in Living Life – Change is Possible is a dedicated group of 10 to 15 youth from across Saint Paul. The youth range in age from 13 years old up to 20 years old. Younger group members have the opportunity to learn leadership skills from their older peers.
V.I.L.L. played a lead role in promoting the regulation of single cigars in Saint Paul. These cheap, flavored single cigars were sold for as little as 50 cents. When tobacco is this cheap, kids are more likely to try tobacco. The group was instrumental in educating community leaders about these harmful and addictive cigars.
V.I.L.L was also very involved in passing the 2012 Saint Paul ordinance that restricts the amount of window signage allowed to no more than 30 percent. This law creates safer and healthier communities by reducing the amount of tobacco advertisements displayed. It also is important for beautifying the City of Saint Paul. V.I.L.L. is now assisting with enforcement of this sign code.
“A child’s neighborhood has a profound impact on that child’s everyday decisions. V.I.L.L. helps youth make responsible decisions that are needed to build strength within families and communities. These youth have been empowered to make positive change and leave a lasting legacy by creating healthier communities. Through the partnership with Ramsey Tobacco Coalition, members of V.I.L.L. have learned how to advocate for tobacco prevention initiatives that impact their lives and the lives of future generations.”Damone Presley
Group recognized by Ramsey County
ANSR’s community partner, Vision in Living Life – Change is Possible (VILL) was recognized for its hard work on the Saint Paul flavored tobacco ordinance by Ramsey County. The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners gave Vision in Living Life leader, Damone Presley, and youth member, William Williams, a Public Health Award on April 5, to recognize the group for its efforts.
“They discussed how tobacco companies target youth by adding sweets and candy flavors, such as bubble gum, chocolate, and cotton candy, to cigars, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes,” Ramsey County Commission Toni Carter said.
VILL youth worked diligently in Saint Paul to help regulate the sale of flavored tobacco. Youth went out in their Saint Paul communities and had conversations about the deadly impacts sweet flavored tobacco products have on youth. They met with every member of the Saint Paul City Council to educate them on these products and why it is important to not have them sold in stores where children can enter.
VILL youth also took on the important role of educating the City Council at the public hearing of the flavored tobacco ordinance in November 2015.
Presley thanked the Ramsey County Commissioners for the award and said, “I really like what Ms. (Rina) McManus said about public. Because public means everybody, and we in Vision in Living Life – Change is Possible truly believe that in our community, healthier, safer communities bring better people and better communities.”
VILL has partnered with ANSR for many years, helping the City of Saint Paul pass ordinances to reduce the number of signs a business may put on their windows, to increase the price of little cigars and, most recently, to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco.
“Vision in Living Life has been an invaluable partner. Through the leadership of Damone Presley, VILL has been active in making Saint Paul a better city for our youth,” Alicia Leizinger, a Program and Policy Specialist at ANSR, said.