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The Story of NOVA Initiative

Founded in 2023

In 2023, our Founder, Olga Rohrer, saw an issue with youth vaping in the El Paso community. Individuals are being exposed to vaping and e-cigarettes at a much younger age than before, but many do not know about the behavioral and health consequences of vaping. With the goal of filling this gap, Miss Rohrer has collaborated with Dr. Ian Mendez and other researchers at UTEP. With this, NOVA Initiative was created.

NOVA Initiative is a student founded nonprofit organization that focuses on bringing attention to vape prevention and nicotine education through the means of research supported science. The Mendez Laboratory at UTEP is conducting cutting edge research to learn about the negative health effects of nicotine vapor exposure. NOVA Initiative focuses on using the information we have gathered, along with other sources of literature, to create a research-based educational program. Our program aims to educate students about how vaping can cause harm to our brains and mental health. Sessions are meant to be presented at a variety of age groups in different schools across El Paso using an interactive format. NOVA Initiative covers topics, from how vaping and nicotine negatively impact the brain to providing alternatives to promote a healthy body and mind. With NOVA Initiative, we aim to educate and improve the lives of future generations 

What started as a small project, quickly grew to encompass individuals all across El Paso. Together with our allies and partners, NOVA Initiative engages and mobilizes informed leaders from all backgrounds. By providing educational presentations, and methods of integrating knowledge while promoting leadership in our youth, NOVA Initiative makes steps toward a vape-free future with an established sense of community. Get in touch to learn more about our mission and join our cause today.

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EPISD Speaker's Bureau

Board of Directors

Meet the team that has made this program possible! Our board of directors are research scientists that are passionate about the health risks concerning vaping.

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President & Founder

Olga Rohrer

Olga Rohrer is an aspiring physician with a passion in public health, education, and research. With a Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences from UTEP, she is committed to evidence-based approaches to understanding health issues. Her interest in pursuing medicine reflects her dedication to advancing medical knowledge and improving community health outcomes. Olga's aim is to leverage her experience to educate students about the dangers of vaping and empower them to make healthy choices. 

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Director

Marlo Holguin

Marlo Holguin is a fronterizo son of immigrants, passionate about the nature of drugs. Pursuing a Neuroscience degree at UTEP, Marlo advocates for sensible drug policy reforms and harm reduction. They bring valuable experience in leading ambassadorship programs and nonprofit work within the community. Their previous involvement in such initiatives adds depth to inspiring community engagement.

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Vice President

Dr. Ian Mendez

Dr. Mendez is an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at El Paso School of Pharmacy. The primary aim of the Mendez Laboratory is to elucidate the structures and circuits of the brain that become dysregulated following repeated exposure to nicotine and how these changes ultimately drive impairments in motivational, hedonic, and cognitive processing. Dr. Mendez is dedicated to establishing excellence in teaching and mentorship, while enhancing research training opportunities for students.

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Director

Dr. Gabriel Frietze

Dr. Gabriel Frietze is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences within the School of Pharmacy at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). Dr. Frietze is a research health psychologist with expertise in human subjects research, survey development, and implementation of behavioral health interventions to reduce risky behaviors and/or promote healthy behaviors. 

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Secretary

Liliana Maynez-Anchondo

Liliana Maynez-Anchondo is a Behavioral Neuroscience Ph.D. Student at The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). 

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Mendez Lab at UTEP

Meet the Mendez Lab! We are a group of undergraduate and graduate students that conduct experiments to study the effects of nicotine vapor exposure on drug seeking behavior. Our research work provides the scientific evidence for NOVA Initiative's program to reinforce their message.

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