Pacific Northwest Black Business Coalition

How PNWBBC’s Get VAXX’D Initiative is Empowering Youth to Lead Health Advocacy

Welcome to the Impact Fund Spotlight series, where we celebrate the work of community partners who are bridging the gap in health disparities for marginalized communities in Washington. Today, we’re turning the spotlight on the Pacific Northwest Black Business Coalition (PNWBBC), a community based organization in Seattle committed to economically empowering black-led businesses, combating systemic racism, and championing equitable engagement for underserved youth.

Using traditional and social media, PNWBBC’s Get VAXX’D initiative has sparked a revolution in health literacy and youth empowerment for black communities in King and Pierce counties. By leveraging platforms like TikTok and TV commercials, they’ve turned the tide in the fight against COVID-19, ensuring access to critical COVID-19 vaccine information and resources. Today we hear from PNWBBC’s trailblazing founder and executive director, Rhonda Tilford.

Executive Director Rhonda Tilford’s life is a true comeback story. Her journey, marked by her challenges with homelessness and single motherhood, has shaped her into a survivor, a warrior who never backs down from a challenge. People from all walks of life have described her as resilient, even dubbing her ‘the comeback kid’ due to her inspiring life journey. Through every hardship, Rhonda’s spirit remains unbroken.

“I’ve weathered many storms, but I always bounce back. Call me ‘the comeback kid’.” – Rhonda

But her story doesn’t stop with her personal victories. It reaches far beyond, echoing in the lives of children of color in King and Pierce County. As families grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, children faced an uncertain future, marked by isolation and a fast-changing reality. This led to the birth of Get VAXX’D, an initiative aimed at promoting COVID-19 prevention through testing and vaccine uptake to protect underserved populations. Guided by Rhonda’s vision, Get VAXX’D used radio ads, TV commercials, and social media platforms like TikTok as powerful mediums for their message. Get VAXX’D not only educated the youth about getting vaccinated but also empowered them to vocalize these issues from their unique perspectives. Through the Impact Fund grant, PNWBBC successfully recruited 170 youth ambassadors, offering them stipends for their valuable contributions.


A group of children, all wearing blue 'Get VAXX'D' t-shirts, pose for the camera with smiles. On the wall behind them, a 'Get VAXX’D' sign is prominently displayed, framed by balloons on either side, accentuating the celebratory atmosphere.

A group of children celebrate the ‘Get VAXX’D’ program.

Viral Videos, Vital Vaccines

In a world increasingly driven by social media, platforms like TikTok not only entertain but also provide valuable information in short form content. It’s a medium where users can channel their interests, debunk medical misconceptions, address health disparities, and start viral campaigns to advocate for change. This trend is perfectly encapsulated in Joel Bervell’s story, a medical student who used TikTok to fight health inequities. There are even those who call the platform the WebMD of the younger generation.

Get VAXX’D, recognizing this trend, harnessed the viral power of TikTok to become a formidable force in social media advocacy for vaccine uptake. While this digital campaign was taking flight, Rhonda noticed an interesting divergence in the preferred modes of communication among the youth. Some were heavily immersed in the social media platform to vocalize their experiences with getting vaccinated, but others preferred the traditional approach of face-to-face interactions during community tabling events.  Even in the digital age, direct personal contact remains a powerful tool for connection and change.


In the image, young individuals dressed in purple Get VAXX'D t-shirts are walking around the room. At the center of the room is a young person shaking hands with an adult. Rhonda can be seen in the background, smiling.

To truly appreciate the scope and impact of the Get VAXX’D initiative, one must see it in action. One of the videos features five children, seated on a bicycle rail, wearing vibrant purple t-shirts with the words, “Get VAXX’D,” along with PNWBBC’s logo. One by one, they deliver the powerful message: “Get, vaccinated, and take care, of your mental, health.”

 “Get VAXX’D sparked an ‘aha’ moment for these kids,” Rhonda recalls. “They became more proactive, seeking more classes, and asking to participate in more community events” This surge in enthusiasm was evident during this year’s Juneteenth weekend when 24 young people signed up to work at a single event. Rhonda also adds that Get VAXX’D helped foster new peer-to-peer relationships. These relationships served as a foundation for teamwork and enabled the youth to positively impact their peers and families.

Get VAXX’D on tiktok! 

An image of a phone screen open to tiktok showing a PNWBBC video of two young girls wearing masks, holding rapid tests, promoting vaccines.

Wash your hands and wash away the bacteria. Get VaXX’D!

An image of a phone screen open to tiktok showing PNWBBC's founder, Rhonda Tilford's, call for action on masking and getting vaccinated.

Our Founder Rhonda Tilford has a Call to Action for you and your loved ones. Mask up & Get VaXXD!!

PNWBBC’s Plan for Youth-led Public Health Advocacy

Looking ahead, Rhonda and the PNWBBC team plan to build on their success. Empowered by the lessons learned from the pandemic and the Get VAXX’D initiative, they’re set to expand their youth-centric programs, aiming to create a ripple effect of change across communities. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered significant changes in our societal norms and personal behaviors, underlining the essential role of community safety and hygiene. As Rhonda observes, this change, which originated from a crisis, can actually promote a stronger commitment to public health. Whether it’s about adhering to mask mandates or joining vaccination drives, the focus should always be on improving the health and resilience of our communities.

Meanwhile, even as debates about the future of platforms like TikTok continue in the United States, one trend remains clear – the growing reliance of people on the internet for health information. This trend solidifies the influential role that platforms like TikTok can play in raising health awareness and championing advocacy.

In this shifting landscape, Rhonda sees opportunity – a chance to cultivate a generation of young ambassadors, equipped with the knowledge and tools to protect their communities from future health threats. COVID-19 may be gradually drawing to a close, but for PNWBBC, their mission is only just beginning.

For a closer look at the Get VAXX’D Campaign and to watch their videos, please visit the PacificNorthwestBBC TikTok page and explore the PNWBBC’s website.

If you want to learn more about how our community partners have been combating the challenges of COVID-19, we’ve got you covered. Keep an eye out for our upcoming spotlights that will highlight their efforts within their respective communities throughout this pandemic.

More Get VAXX’D on tiktok! 

A cell phone open to tiktok showing youth ambassador Valeria encouraging people to get vaccinated to protect their family and friends.

Our Youth Ambassador Valeria is here with a friendly reminder to get vaccinated in order to keep your friends and family safe.

A cell phone open to tiktok showing youth ambassador discussing mental health.

Mental health is physical health!

A cell phone open to tiktok showing youth ambassador discussing hand washing

Wash your hands and get vaxx'd!

A group of PNWBBC youth ambassadors and staff celebrate the Get Vaxx'd program.