How a young cancer advocate is engaging the next generation to end cancer as we know it

August 9, 2023

Sam KemweissToday, August 12th, is International Youth Day. To mark the occasion, we sat down with one of our summer interns, Sam Keimweiss to talk about how ACS CAN is currently engaging young people on cancer fighting issues, and what we can learn from our younger generations. Sam is currently our Federal Legislation intern and a rising senior at Northwestern University. He serves as the Co-Leader for the National Campus and Youth Engagement Team at ACS as well as an Ambassador Constituent Team (ACT) Lead for District 12 in New York for ACS CAN. Finally, he is a steering committee member for our new youth affinity group.

How did you start volunteering with ACS CAN?

“I sort of fell into it. My best friend growing up is a three-time cancer survivor. I started doing Relay for Life (RFL) in middle school and by my senior year of high school, I was co-chair of our chapter with my best friend. I became even more involved when my RFL event was shut down because of COVID and I was tapped to help make the events virtual and just kept getting more involved from there.

 In 2021 I was invited to Leadership Summit and Lobby Day, and it was there I really found my passion for advocacy. I had a meeting with a Congressional staffer, and I helped convince her to sign onto the Multi-Cancer Early Detection Act. That was my real ‘ah- ha’ moment. I realized I could make real change through advocacy.”

You were recently one of 75 young cancer advocates who were invited to ACS CAN’s inaugural Youth Leadership Summit (YSL) for youth ages 18-35. I hear you were one of the volunteers who helped this summit to fruition. Tell me a little bit about it.

Over a weekend in Chicago, these cancer advocates met with ACS CAN leadership to share their ideas on how ACS CAN can better engage young people. The main idea behind the YSL was to get young people together in the same room. We wanted it to be a volunteer-led event. The coming affinity group is someplace we want a chance for leaders to emerge."

The Summit kicked off our newest affinity group for young people, which is currently being finalized. ACS CAN also has affinity groups for diverse communities including the Black Volunteer Caucus and the LGBTQ+ and Allies Engagement Group

What do you think young leaders can bring to our organization and our fight against cancer?

“Young leaders have a lot of ambition. Particularly cancer survivors. They understand medical debt. They understand losing pieces of their life to cancer. They are affected by cancer in the same ways and yet they are getting left behind in cancer discussions. Young leaders can use their passion to organize and make real change.”

In your opinion, what is the best way to engage civic-minded young people?

“Young advocates want their voice to be heard and they want to be empowered. They want to be included in the conversation around policy, with lawmakers, because it affects them too.”

How would you like to see ACS CAN grow in the next few years?

“I want the public face of ACS reflect the public face of the country, which is young and diverse.” 

ACS CAN wants that, too! Learn how you can get involved with ACS CAN and join the fight against cancer.