News and Events

Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Member Elected to Statewide Youth Advocacy Board
September 13, 2014

September 13th, 2014 was a busy day for Florida’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program. SWAT meetings took place in each of four regions across Florida on the same day, but in different locations.

Approximately 40 SWAT members attended to represent Region 2 in Orange Park, including Levy SWAT members Dakota Phillips, Emma Ronchetti, and Jordan Marlett. Dakota is a 9th grader and SWAT Co-Chair at Cedar Key School and Emma is a 7th grader at Chiefland Middle School. Jordan, a Bronson High School Sophomore and SWAT Club Co-Chair, not only attended the meeting, but she also co-facilitated a session.

Levy SWAT Team
Levy SWAT Representatives, L to R: Emma Ronchetti, Jordan Marlett, Dakota Phillips

The regional meetings were planned during the summer by the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB). YAB members and select adults in each region planned and facilitated the entire meeting, which began with interactive icebreaker activities. Levy County Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Kristina Zachry, was one of the three adults from Region 2 who were responsible for co-planning the meeting with the YAB members.

Next, was a presentation called Tobacco 2.0: Making Tobacco History, which focused on providing information about current national and statewide tobacco control news. The presentation topics included the new Food and Drug Administration’s youth prevention campaign, The Real Cost; CVS stores becoming tobacco-free; the new Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health; and current electronic cigarette and hookah trends among Florida’s youth. Ms. Zachry spent many hours preparing the Tobacco 2.0 presentation with SWAT member Jordan Marlett, who co-presented that session with Kayla Spengemann, a senior SWAT member from Putnam County.

Tobacco 2.0
Kayla Spengemann and Marlett present "Tobacco 2.0: Making Tobacco History"

SWAT members then participated in five rotating table top sessions with different topics: Support Matters, Interaction Matters, Legal Matters, Meeting Matters, and Trending Matters.

Levy County’s Kristina Zachry was also responsible for facilitating one of those rotating table top sessions, Support Matters, which was focused on leveraging community and media support for local policy change activities.

The remaining table top sessions each focused on topics that are relevant to the local advocacy and policy work that SWAT members participate in across the state. Interaction Matters was focused on promoting SWAT’s message at community events. Legal Matters handled issues such as preemption, which makes it difficult to pass certain tobacco control policies because it removes local authority to pass those policies. Meeting Matters was focused on running productive SWAT meetings and keeping SWAT members engaged. Finally, Trending Matters provided information on current emerging issues that are impacting youth tobacco use rates, such as electronic cigarettes and hookah. Emma Ronchetti learned a lot during the Tobacco 2.0 and table top sessions. She says, “The meeting gave me lots of information about tobacco that I didn’t know before.”

During the afternoon portion of the meeting, an election for the new 2014-2015 SWAT Youth Advocacy Board took place. Finally, there was the unveiling of the new statewide social media campaign, called NOW. The NOW campaign also inspired the theme for the regional meeting, which was SWAT Matters NOW, and it included a lot of clock and time-related decorations.

Jordan Marlett

Levy SWAT member Jordan Marlett ran for a position and was elected to serve on the Statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board. The YAB is a twelve-member group of SWAT students who are elected annually by their peers to serve as regional representatives and youth advisors for the statewide tobacco program. There are three representatives and one alternate elected for each of Florida’s four tobacco control regions.

Jordan is excited to be representing Levy County for Region 2. “My experience at the regional meeting was unbelievable and life changing,” says Jordan, “I am looking forward to serving as a YAB member.” This will be the sixth year in a row that Levy County has had a youth leader serving on the YAB. Ms. Zachry is excited about Jordan’s new position stating, “I’m so proud of Jordan and I’m looking forward to mentoring her and helping her grow as a SWAT leader this year.”

The new statewide social media campaign, NOW, was unveiled to the meeting participants and it was a huge hit. The Tobacco Free Florida media company wanted some thoughts from SWAT members in each region on the campaign, so they were able to share some draft campaign materials and solicit feedback on the proposed campaign website. The new campaign is focused on incorporating tobacco prevention social media messages into teens’ everyday lives and it seems like it will be effective. According to SWAT member Jordan, “The new NOW statewide SWAT campaign is very hip and up to date with present day likings of youth and I believe it’s going to be a huge success.”

When asked what they thought about the regional meeting, the other Levy SWAT members who attended were extremely excited and positive in their responses.

“The regional SWAT meeting was the experience of a lifetime and I met new people and discussed new ideas,” says Dakota Phillips.  “It was so educational with a spice of humor and I would love to go again.” Dakota felt most empowered by the Tobacco 2.0 presentation. “I realized that together we can accomplish anything. An example of that is CVS is now tobacco free!”

Emma Ronchetti felt similarly. “I had a wonderful experience at the regional SWAT meeting,” she says, “I met a lot of new people, from all over the state, who were also involved in SWAT. I am proud that I was selected to go.”

For more information on  the Levy County SWAT Chapter, contact Kristina Zachry at kzachry@quitdoc.com.