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PHOENIX, August 1, 2023— Four young students, ranging in age from nine to 14, have been selected by the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, to serve as a volunteer local Youth Heart Ambassadors for the 2023-2024 school year. The four selected adolescents will work closely with the American Heart Association’s in-school programs, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™ to actively and passionately champion other children to establish healthy habits to better mental and physical well-being in Greater Phoenix and Flagstaff.

The American Heart Association accepted nominations from young people who have been affected by heart disease or stroke either through a personal diagnosis, diagnosis of a loved one, or has made a personal lifestyle change, to serve in the Youth Heart Ambassador role. The selected 2023-2024 ambassadors include:

  • Addison Rizza, of Coconino High School in Flagstaff, AZ, age 14, grade 9:
    • A congenital heart defect survivor born with several holes in her heart –a condition known as a “Ventricular Septal Defect.”
  • Beau Nez, of Shumway Leadership Academy in Chandler, AZ, age 7, grade 2:
    • A congenital heart defect survivor born with a single ventricle heart with tricuspid atresia—a condition in which a side of the heart may be underdeveloped, missing a valve or small in size. He also has an atrial septal defect and a ventricular septal defect.
  • Braxton Harmen, of Inspiration Mountain School in Phoenix, AZ, age 9, grade 4:
    • A congenital heart defect survivor who has high blood pressure and a STIM-1 mutation and mitochondrial dysfunction. The condition causes heart damage as he gets older.
  • Jaden Cho, of Riverside Elementary in Phoenix, AZ, age 9, grade 4:
    • A heart health advocate whose grandfather suffered from high blood pressure, diabetes and a heart attack.

The Youth Heart Ambassadors serve a one-year commitment as a volunteer of the American Heart Association assisting the organization to be a relentless force for healthier lives for all. The position gives youth a voice to encourage, advocate and underscore the need for to raise critical funding as they share the impact cardiovascular disease has had on their life.  

“It’s exciting to see our local youth share their voice and experience to help others live heart healthy,” said, Chair of the American Heart Association Greater Phoenix Board of Directors and Health Plan Chief Financial Officer of Arizona Complete Health, Trista Loops. “All of the young ambassadors have incredible stories and we are thrilled to see the impact they will make in our local schools and in schools across the country”. 

Rooted in physical activity, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™ are service-learning programs that teach students how to improve their overall health while doing good for the health of others. Through interactive curriculums and various online challenges, participating students get active and have fun while raising funds and awareness for congenital heart defects, nutrition security, CPR training, mental well-being and more. These collective efforts help further the American Heart Association’s mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.

Schools interested in participating in either Kids Heart Challenge™ or American Heart Challenge™ receive expanded curriculum resources for both classrooms and in-home learning environments can register now for next school year. To learn more about our school programs please visit www.heart.org/getstarted. More information can be found online, heart.org/youthambassadors


About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health, and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookTwitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.   

For Media Inquiries:

Satara Tinkler; satara.tinkler@heart.org

Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and stroke.org