Winner Profiles

How to Convince a 10-Year-Old Soda Sucks
By Suzanne Manneh, New America Media

Jose Esquivel

Jose Esquivel

RICHMOND, Calif.—Jose Esquivel, 17, convinced his 10-year-old cousin to drink less soda and hopes he will convince others.

The aspiring motion graphic designer, who will attend Expression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville to pursue an education and career in graphic design this winter, was among five grand prize winners in a statewide public awareness contest, sponsored by New America Media, entitled “Why Soda Sucks,” for his motion design video. Esquivel plans to use his $1,000 prize money for his education.

He learned about the contest at youth convening, and entered he said, “because I don’t like or drink soda.”

“I think this campaign served to discourage people from drinking soda. Not many people know the dangers because of how the media glorifies it. Ads are put up to make it seem like it’s a super great thing, when it’s not.”

“The most I’ve learned from it [his project] is how much sugar soda has. Visually, I didn’t really know until I researched it,” he said.

In his motion graphic video, Esquivel focuses on the high sugar levels in soda.
“Did you know that the amount of sugar in soda is so high that it can damage your white blood cells’ ability to ingest and kill bacteria for seven hours?” he asks in his video.  He then demonstrates that a20 oz bottle of Coca-Cola has 65 grams of sugar and accounts for 265 calories of sugar, or 13% of a 2,000 calorie diet. Esquivel also illustrates this in sugar cubes. “There are 60 sugar cubes in bottle,” he says.

“The funny thing is after I made this video, I showed it to my cousin who’s 10, and he started asking me questions about soda,” he said. “I explained it demonstrating how many packets of sugar are in a can of soda.  He said, ‘Wow! That is a lot of sugar,’ and now he doesn’t drink it as much.”

But Esquivel accepts that not everyone will consider cutting soda out of their diets. “My best friend is a big soda fan,” he said.
His goal is to educate youth on soda’s health risks.
He hopes for more similar campaigns like Soda Sucks. “Knowledge is key,” he said. “If you teach youth  about a topic I think they would understand and be more inclined to make a better decision.”

‘Ad Messages Lie,’ Says Former Soda Drinker
By Suzanne Manneh, New America Media

William Haynes

William Haynes

RICHMOND, Calif.—William Haynes, 17, confesses he’s been a soda drinker his whole life.

While he doesn’t plan on giving up soda for good, he says he has been incorporating more water and juices to prevent health risks he’s discovered to be linked to high soda consumption.

Earlier this month, Haynes won a $1,000 for a video he produced for a statewide public-awareness contest, sponsored by New America Media entitled “Why Soda Sucks”

“I had an uncanny tenderness, a warmth, a passion for soda that was until I did a little bit of research,” he begins.

His video entitled, “Soda Sucks, Water is Good,” outlines the health hazards associated with soda consumption.

“I heard soda weakens the bloody heck out of your tooth enamel and increases risk for obesity by 1.6 times every additional drink,” he says in his video.

But he says that many teenagers are in his same position of being large soda consumers and prefer it to most other beverages.

Haynes, who was born and raised in Richmond, Ca., says soda addiction is largely the result of aggressive marketing techniques aimed at teenagers.

“Young people are targets of ads because even though we don’t have that much money, we don’t have to worry about making payments.”

Some of Haynes’ friends recently told him about a commercial for “SunDrop” a citrus flavored soda, where a young woman begins dancing joyfully to a popular rap song upon her first sip.

For the duration of the commercial the girl dances through the streets, on to the beach, disrupting a yoga class and initiates a beach dance party, where everyone is drinking Sundrop sodas with her.

“My friends wanted to see where they could buy it,” he said, “and I think they showed that interest because of the way it was marketed to them.”

Another reason for soda’s high consumption rates among his peers and in his city, Haynes says, that it is “just so much more available”

“Richmond is a food desert.”

“You can go down the street and easily get a two-liter bottle of soda at the gas station. Water, and juices, they’re available, but not as much and in smaller quantities,” he said.

He noted that his family purchases a lot of food from the dollar store, because of the lack of other markets.

“I made an oath to myself not to eat any of that,” he said, adding that both his parents have high blood pressure.

Haynes has his own youtube video channel, WilliamHaynesTV, where since 2009, he has produced and uploaded 67 videos that address issues ranging from climate change to peer pressure and youth culture.

Using comedy is key, he thinks.
“Jokes seem to be more memorable… I call it Activist Comedy,” he said.
Friends who have seen it take his message more seriously than an “expert doctor.”

“It’s coming from someone they know,” he said.

Haynes started college this fall in Southern California where he is studying film. He will use his prize money to buy books and equipment.

“My parents think that this (making youtube videos) is a phase. That ‘some teenagers join gangs, others make youtube videos’,” he said.

“But it’s not a phase. This is something I’ll do the rest of my life, maybe not on youtube, but somewhere.”

‘Why Does Water Cost More Than Soda?’ Winner Asks
By Suzanne Manneh, New America Media

Anthony Mastrocola

Anthony Mastrocola

SAN JOSE—His peers know him as MC Cola, but, “now that [stage name] is ironic,” said aspiring rapper Anthony Mastrocola, 21.

In his songs, Mastrocola addresses everything from societal and racial inequities, to popular trends in youth culture, “but I’ve stepped out of my box.”

Earlier this summer, Mastrocola produced a song outlining the health risks associated with drinking soda, which he submitted to the statewide public awareness campaign, entitled “Why Soda Sucks,” sponsored by New America Media. Mastrocola was one of 5 grand prize winners, each of whom received a $1,000. He plans to use his prize money for “helping pay a few bills.”

He learned about the public awareness campaign contest from friends involved with the San Jose based youth media and advocacy organization, Silicon Valley Debug, and entered because “I had a few important things to say about soda that I hope will enlighten people.”

“This is a public service announcement about the soda they serve at fountains/It’s a leading cause of disease, you haven’t hear about this?/ Okay well 62% of teenagers in the USA consume at least one can of soda a day,” he sings.

“If you know what’s up, then you know that soda sucks,” his continues.

Mastrocola admits he didn’t always think “soda sucked.”

“When I was little, I would drink it, “ he said, “even though my parents told me ‘don’t drink soda.’”

A friend changed his perspective.

“In eighth grade, I started playing football,” he said. “One of my teammates told me one day he didn’t drink soda and [he said] I should stop, so I tried it,” he said.

It was a “healthy choice,” that helped him approve athletically.

In his rap song, he accuses soda marketers and retailers of “making soda more available than water.”

“I went to Safeway, and water was 70 cents more expensive than soda,” he said.

“They’re selling it cheaper because it’s an addictive product, that’s how they make money.”

Mastrocola notes that soda marketing schemes are “pretty brilliant,” “colorful,” “fun” and “specifically made for youth.”

It was a Vanilla Coke commercial that convinced Mastrocola to try the beverage while in high school.

In the widely promoted commercial, a teenager pokes his head through a large hole in an urban building under construction and gets trapped. A voiceover says “ “Congratulations, my friend, your youth and curiosity have served you well, and you will be rewarded with a nice vanilla coke. I believe you will find the hint of vanilla alluring, the taste smooth.  Reward your curiosity with Vanilla Coke…”

“It was something new, so I tried it,” he recalled.

Mastrocola says that while his song has “influenced one friend so far to think twice about drinking soda,” he worries for younger generations who continue to drink it, “but don’t know what it can do,” he said.

“Kids will grow up obese and that’s not how kids should grow up.”

Soda ‘A Suicide Drink’
By Suzanne Manneh, New America Media

LA QUINTA, Calif.—Harley Ray Weir, 17, has something on his mind he wants soda marketers to know.

Soda, he says, is a “suicide drink,” and advertisers are wrongfully taking advantage of young consumers because they’re “impressionable.”

Weir designed a poster that depicts his disappointment in advertisers and the impacts advertisements have on youth and submitted it for a public awareness campaign contest, entitled “Why Soda Sucks,” sponsored by New America Media. He was named among five grand prize winners, winning a $1000.00 prize.
He entered the contest because he “was displeased with the soda companies. They put out sugary products. It’s just bad.” he said.

What especially irritates him is that ad agencies “lie” to youth, who are largely the main consumers of soda. “It’s just kind of sad when you get down to it,” he said.

His poster depicts a man dressed in black surrounded by silver soda cans standing atop a large mountain of sugar. The man is pouring out soda down to obese youth stuck in the middle trying to climb to the top. At the bottom stand two thinner, younger youth newer to soda, grinning and holding out their soda cans.

Weir said he focused on the concept of chaos vs. order, in depicting his generation’s diet.

There are “mounds of sugar, with more pouring down, the ones at the bottom come across the sugar and eventually they join the ones at the top,” he said.

He admits that he has never been “big on soda,” especially Coca-Cola. “It tastes foul to me. Water is the life fluid and really is the perfect drink.”

While he hopes that people find his poster inspiring and informative, he respects that others may not share his perspectives.

“To each his own,” he said.

Weir plans to pursue art pursue art professionally in Southern California, was inspired by his grandmother who was an artist, as well as by Frank Miller and Ben Templesmith. He plans to use his prize money towards purchasing a higher quality computer and further developing his graphic art work.

4 Teens Convert Themselves to Being Soda Free
By Suzanne Manneh, New America Media

Prince Jacob and Crew

"The Y-Projects"

SAN FRANCISCO—Four high school teenagers known as “The Y-Projects,” have been producing and performing original hip hop together for just under a year.

They are all active members of the Shih Yu-Lang Central YMCA in the city’s Tenderloin district, which has helped them develop their music skills.

Through the YMCA, they learned of a chance to enter a statewide public awareness contest, entitled “Why Soda Sucks,” sponsored by New America Media. The group’s entry was among five grand prize winners and each member received a cash prize of $225.00.

Prize money was only one incentive for entering the contest.

The group also wanted to take an opportunity to sing about a subject matter they had rarely considered: the health risks of soda.

“I like making music and I wanted to share the knowledge of why soda is bad. I used to drink soda every single day and I haven’t purchased soda for over a month,” said Troy Reinhard, 18.

Zaldy Tubig, 17, says his family history of diabetes is his main concern. “A lot of my family members have diabetes,” he said.  “My father is in a critical state, I don’t want to get like that.”

“If you’re stomach’s in pain: soda/if it’s pounds you gain: soda/and when you get diabetes from soda, don’t say that I never told ya,” they sing.

Reinhard said that before writing any lyrics, they researched soda’s side effects, then “took what we knew, wrote about it and sectioned it off.”

In the process, they all gained new information on soda’s health risks and became converts to their own campaign.

“I knew about diabetes, but I never thought of heart disease,” said Reinhard.

Reinhard and Tubig, admit they have significantly reduced their consumption, while Prince Jacobs, 18 and Marquis Hamilton, 18 have never been soda drinkers.

“I bike everywhere I don’t want to get cramps,” said Jacobs. “Soda and biking don’t mix.”

Hamilton prefers orange juice, because it’s healthier.

“If you want soda, you might as well have pure cane sugar,” he said.

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