Olivia Holter is a force to be reckoned with.

The Helena High School senior has the determination of a fighting bull, the empathy of a saint and the brains of a doctor.

Holter has a laundry list of accomplishments, but there are two topics — politics and tobacco— that have earned her some prestigious awards and life-changing experiences.

She was one of several Montana teens that helped create an award-winning ad campaign for the Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program, and won the National Youth Advocate of the Year award from Tobacco Free Kids. She worked with the U.S. Senate Page Program and attended the Seeds of Peace camp this summer, which is an international organization working for long-lasting peace.

All of these recognitions and experiences help create the driving force behind this young woman.

Seeds of Peace is dedicated to empowering young leaders from regions of conflict with the leadership skills required to advance reconciliation and coexistence. It was founded in 1993 by journalist John Wallach.

Over the past 18 years, Seeds of Peace has intensified its impact, dramatically increasing the number of participants, represented nations and programs. From 46 Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian teenagers in 1993, the organization has expanded its programming to include young leaders from South Asia, Cyprus and the Balkans. Its leadership network now encompasses more than 4,300 young people.

Seeds of Peace’s internationally recognized program begins at its summer camp in Maine, which Holter attended in late July. It is hard to describe its powerful impact, Holter said.

“I heard stories that make you want to cry,” she said.

Holter said it was at the camp this summer that she met a Palestinian boy who, because of the region’s political conflicts, had never seen the ocean even though he lived 20 minutes from the water.

She said at first, nasty words were exchanged among the youths from various parts of world, but it didn’t take long before the 250 young people (only 30 from the U.S.) had made friends with the “other side.”

When she got home from the summer experience, Holter learned that Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program received one of this year’s Bronze Telly Awards for a television advertisement titled, “Nobody’s Trophy.” The ad calls attention to the tobacco industry’s marketing tactics that target teenagers through a hunters theme. It sends the message that teens can’t be hunted by corporate tobacco.

“We wanted it to be really Montana themed so it reaches all corners,” Holter said. “Hunting is something Montana does, so we can all understand it.”

Erin Kintop, the prevention program’s youth empowerment coordinator, said the ad was shot in Montana using real Montana teens, which helped deliver the message here and make it relevant.

Linda Lee, the program’s supervisor, said winning the award is a big deal.

“It’s very significant,” Lee said. “It’s like the Emmys, only in TV advertising.”

Holter has been part of the reACT Core Team for the past four years, which is a group of teen advocates who lead the reACT Against Corporate Tobacco Program. The Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program funds and staffs the reACT programs. One of reACT’s charges is to plan and organize the yearly summit where 150 teens attend to learn how corporate tobacco targets them as potential customers.

“Most people who are addicted to tobacco start using when they are teenagers,” Lee said. “Basically, we help teens understand that they are targets of the tobacco industry to replace smokers that die and quit.”

Health messages don’t always work on a 15-year-old, but if they understand the tobacco industry is trying to dupe them, they don’t like that — it makes them mad and helps their enthusiasm.”

Holter played an integral role in changing rules about smoking at the Symphony Under the Stars and Shakespeare in the Park, which were tobacco-free this year.

“That’s exactly the right direction we all need to go in order to reduce addiction and therefore death and disease from tobacco,” Lee said.

Holter, who aspires to become a doctor, says she hopes tobacco companies will someday be out of business.

“If a company can sell something that will kill you, why not let murder be legal,” she said. “Lipstick and dog food ingredients are regulated, but not tobacco; although that’s changing now. But the regulations don’t cover the new products they are coming out with like dissolving, nicotine-delivering mints. They just want to make it easier for kids to start using tobacco products.”

Holter lost her grandmother to a tobacco-related illness when she was about 4 years old and thinks of her for inspiration.

The big push for Holter’s final year at HHS is enforcing schools to be tobacco-free.

“We still have a smoker’s corner at lunch and after school,” she said. “When you are addicted to nicotine, you need that fix even if it breaks the rules.”

Holter says she’s never tried smoking or chewing. However, she asserts, she doesn’t judge those who choose to engage in those choices, but will work hard to educate them knowing that with education and knowledge comes power to make healthy decisions.

“I have a lot more to live for than drugs and alcohol — it’s a dangerous road.”

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or alana.listoe@helenair.com

(17) comments

GreenGirl02

What a great story! You go girl! :)

Independent

“If a company can sell something that will kill you, why not let murder be legal,” Oh to be young and able to make such silly statements and get away with it.

This young lady has all the makings of a great leader of the next generation with a little life knowledge. Good luck.

Curmudgeon

Independent, I don't see her comment as "silly" at all. Tobacco is the only legal ingested or breathed product which, used as intended, may kill the user.

I was addicted to "coughin' nails" for over 35 years. Thank the Higher Power, was able to quit 26 years ago, and my lungs are clear of disease -- SO FAR.

I think she's a great and admirable young woman.

hiddenmuggle

I see the validity in Independents comments. She makes quite a jump in her comment. Alcohol will kill you, but I don't see that being outlawed any time soon. Just like a car will kill you, but you aren't going to ban cars. Tobacco is a choice. I don't smoke, I have never tried it, but there is no way I'm ever going to advocate for taking away a person's choice to use it.

imadad

GOOD JOB young lady!! Independent is not really a thinker I guess. The fact is that smoking can and does kill many people every year. Indisputable fact. I have often wondered why the U.S. government continues to subsidize tobacco farmers. If we as a nation outlawed the growing and selling of tobacco the cost savings in health care alone would cover the cost of this administraions Health Care Reform Bill. Kinda makes you say Hah, doesn't it? For those of you want to jump in and make this a political statement, don't bother. It's not, it's just ideas thrown out there to make you think.

steeline

Lets not throw water on her parade. With the motivation this young lady has to save the world, she will learn the ropes. I hope she will be able to be inspired to get involved with conservative movements that fight to preserve her rights to do her bidding unfettered by liberal restraints. Go kid!

dietz1963

Her goals are nobel, but not "spot on". For one thing, tobacco industries don't target teens or anyone else. Which is why since the 60s there has been warnings on cigarettes, one rarely sees actors/actresses smoking in the movies/tv, no radio or television commercials and so one. At some point a law making age 18 legal age to smoke. If teens are smoking prior to age 18 essentially they are breaking the law, its that simple. I'm not sure why I started as a teen, gave it up for years then started again, but I can assure you the cigarette company had absolutely nothing to do with it. And no one put that cigarette into my mouth either.

At one point she mentioned seeing a group of kids smoking off to the side of the school. I guess I wonder, why isn't a SRO notified since its illegal? I don't know about you guys, but I hate getting any sort of citation..those cost money. And yes, to reach to "make murder legal" in comparison to smoking is really a far stretch. Here again, that the company sells the product does not force us to buy it or consume it. Plus not everyone that smokes dies from cigarettes. I had relatives live to the ripe old age of 80 plus smoking all their life. Not saying people should smoke but not everyone dies from smoking.

Curmudgeon mentioned tobacco is the only product used for its intended use kills. Curmudgeon assumes other products are used for their intended use, which is not realistic...which folks do die from and no can anyone control.

To that end, I've said it before and I'll say it again, just about anything these days can be "eliminated" in the interest of health and safety. Obesity is killing folks, could very well do away with all fast food restaurants and/or food due to that. Alcohol can kill either the person directly or someone either via DUI alcohol related violence. People are getting killed every day by cars directly related to cell phone usage. I could list things all day long that don't get used for their intended us but do kill. Quite frankly the only way to really control this is either we grow up and take care of ourselves or...get ready for laws that further reduce, or eliminate, our freedoms.

Darkness

[quote]Curmudgeon said: "Independent, I don't see her comment as "silly" at all. Tobacco is the only legal ingested or breathed product which, used as intended, may kill the user. I was addicted to "coughin' nails" for over 35 years. Thank the Higher Power, was able to quit 26 years ago, and my lungs are clear of disease -- SO FAR. I think she's a great and admirable young woman."[/quote]

You are, of course, excepting prescription drugs, blowfish, etc......

she sounds just like someone with no life experience. I wish her the best in her endeavors.

I'mthatgirl

[quote]Darkness said: "You are, of course, excepting prescription drugs, blowfish, etc......she sounds just like someone with no life experience. I wish her the best in her endeavors."[/quote]

She has no life experience? This girl has worked for the Senate, lived with people from around the world, and fought for something she believes in, and you're saying she has no life experience?

Sounds to me like somebody has been stuck in Montana for way to long.

eelizabeth

Olivia is such a great example of what it means to be young, passionate, and involved. Seeing someone putting energy towards a worthy cause such as tobacco prevention is a welcoming and comforting sight. Way to go, Olivia!

helenros
helenros

I remember when I was young enough to see the world in black and white, and regurgitate popular messages as if they were my own opinions. I hope that as she matures, she will temper her zeal with understanding and begin to question what she is told... the whole "Tobacco markets their product to youth," argument is getting quite stale. I have never used tobacco, nor am I employed by tobacco. I despise the smell of smoke and have seen loved ones suffer heart attacks as young as 50 due to cigarettes. But you weaken your position when you use apocryphal "facts."

Independent

"why not let murder be legal,” is still silly. I still believe this young lady has the drive, heart and ability to be a great leader for our future. You go girl!:)

goodfeelings69

Hope She has a good life It is better find out what is wrong then it is shout about a problems and thinking you know openness is way to solve problems then shout maddness to me this story wasted news space

outdoors007

Hey people that have nothing to do with their lives like(1963, and helenros) shut your fingers please. Cant we once have a positive story in the helena ir thanks.....

dietz1963

Outdoors, if you noticed my first statement I said noble effort. As far as the rest, it's an informed opinion. Helenros said it best, the rhetoric outside of the point tobacco is harmful does weaken her position.

Since she is potentially a future leader (as independant pointed out) then its our reponsibility as adults to mentor. So I'm sorry, she is incorrect to say teens are targeted since tobacco under the age of 18 is illegal. It was quoted "One of reACT’s charges is to plan and organize the yearly summit where 150 teens attend to learn how corporate tobacco targets them as potential customers". I'd like to see that myself where/how corporate tobacco targets teens. What does the ad say "teens, you will feel more like an adult have better health by smoking"? I mean, show me such an ad. Despite the laws already in place, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know cigarettes are bad for you, those of us that first began smoking figured that out inside of 2 seconds when we hacked hard on that cigarette. No one forced us to get the cigarette, no one forced us to smoke it or continue to smoke it. This was a personal (and bad) choice. It is incorrect to illustrate murder as a point of contention as to why tobacco should be outlawed as a whole. And if she is observing teens smoking beside the school she should be notifying an SRO.

Plus as a future leader, should one day tobacco product become completely illegal then the future leader better be ready to "figure out" where revenue will come from to offset the revenue tabacco generates. Bad for folks or not, the reality is tabacco generates much revenue either by jobs or taxation. Money has to come from somewhere.....

helenros
helenros

[quote]outdoors007 said: "Hey people that have nothing to do with their lives like(1963, and helenros) shut your fingers please. Cant we once have a positive story in the helena ir thanks....."[/quote] Why does a "positive" story require apocryphal claims?

Vic Venom
Vic Venom

I really admire her zeal and her desire to change the world. Unfortunately, she will realize that the world is a big nasty place that grinds up hopes and dreams and spits them out.

I really wish her the best with her anti-smoking message. I really hate smoking as it is a nasty, filthy habit. However, I am afraid that she is fighting a huge uphill battle as our government condones smoking through government subsidies becasuse it relies on cigarette taxes, and even the "Chosen One" likes to light up in the Oval Office.

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