News and Events

Empowering the NEXXT Generation at the Statewide SWAT Meeting
June 9, 2019

The Florida Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program held their statewide meeting June 7-9, 2019 and members from across the state attended to represent their county SWAT programs and network with their peers from other regions. The purpose of the meeting was to bring together youth from each of Florida’s 67 counties for a weekend of learning, teambuilding, anti-tobacco advocacy, and engage them around the theme of “NEXXT.” The Florida SWAT program is celebrating its 20th anniversary, so the theme of the meeting incorporated the Roman numeral for twenty, XX.


Levy County SWAT Members (L to R): Nycole Parker (Bronson Middle High School), Alexis Crum (Cedar Key School, Region 2 Youth Advocacy Board Representative), Jasmin Guerrero (Chiefland Middle High School)

Additionally, during this meeting, the youth in attendance held an election for their regional representatives to serve on the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB). The YAB is a sixteen-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 four representatives elected for each of Florida’s four tobacco control regions, and at this year’s statewide meeting, the members of the YAB received a World No Tobacco Day award from the World Health Organization for their work to create a statewide Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) awareness campaign called Not a Lab Rat.


2019-2020 Florida SWAT Youth Advocacy Board

SWAT members Alexis Crum (Freshman, Cedar Key School), Jasmin Guerrero (Freshman, Chiefland High School), and Nycole Parker (Freshman, Bronson High School) attended the statewide SWAT meeting to represent Levy County with Community Health Advocate, Kristina Zachry. Alexis Crum ran for a position on the Region 2 Youth Advocacy Board and was elected by her peers to serve a one-year term. For the past eleven years, a student from Levy County has served on the statewide board, and that student also serves as the Youth Co-Chair of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County for the duration of their term as a statewide SWAT representative.


Levy SWAT Member and newly elected Statewide Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) member, Alexis Crum, presents ideas to her peers during a regional breakout session at the statewide meeting.
 

When asked to reflect on her weekend, Alexis Crum said, “The statewide SWAT meeting was an information rich, fun, inspirational meeting. I got to meet a lot of people and as part of the YAB I am ready for my goals like tobacco free parks and events to start being acted on.” She continued, “I am super excited to get the opportunity to be on YAB and work with the Tobacco Free Partnership, and I hope to meet new people and change a lot.”

When asked to reflect on her weekend, Alexis Crum said, “The statewide SWAT meeting was an information rich, fun, inspirational meeting. I got to meet a lot of people and as part of the YAB I am ready for my goals like tobacco free parks and events to start being acted on.” She continued, “I am super excited to get the opportunity to be on YAB and work with the Tobacco Free Partnership, and I hope to meet new people and change a lot.”

   

“I’m proud of how well Alexis represented Levy at the meeting,” says Kristina Zachry. “She has been a SWAT member for several years and has demonstrated leadership in her local community of Cedar Key and at school, so it’s great that she has the opportunity to contribute to the statewide program now and advance her skills as a SWAT member.”

The meeting was jam-packed with activities. Friday included a presentation called “Tobacco 101,” which focused on the way that the tobacco industry has targeted youth for the past 20 years and the progress that has been made in tobacco control. The youth enjoyed a presentation from the keynote speaker, Jack Waxman, who is a student at Cornell University. He created the viral video titled “Juulers Against Juul,” aimed at exposing the true effects that e-cigarettes have on young kids. Adults learned the latest about ENDS from Tricia Dahl, a senior Research Assistant at Yale University who is studying the influence of flavors, sweeteners, and other constituents of tobacco products on appeal, use, and abuse. Finally, the group enjoyed a conversation with a former SWAT member and county commissioner, who also participated in a follow up question and answer panel with two other influential SWAT alumni moderated by the Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief, Laura Corbin.

Saturday was a full day of sessions for both youth and adults, with ten capacity building sessions broken up into two chunks of five, with participants able to choose two sessions to attend. Youth attended two “Do it Yourself” sessions of their choice focused on advocacy skill building, while adults were briefed on all five of the available DIY sessions in a concurrent session. Youth also learned a method of planning called M.A.D. Skills (Message, Audience, Delivery), designed to help youth plan effective activities. Youth then broke up into regions to use that method to plan a regional presentation for a session on Sunday called “Shark Tank,” modeled after the popular television program, where youth pitched statewide initiative ideas by region to a panel of judges. There were several fun activities to break up the hard work the youth were participating in, such as a bonfire with s’mores on Friday night, trivia games after meals, and a Saturday night talent show, awards ceremony, and dance party.

This was the first time Jasmin Guerrero has attended a SWAT meeting outside of Levy County. “I learned that you need to be open in meeting new people - I didn’t know anyone at the meeting. I didn’t even know “YAB” was a thing,” said Jasmin. “This meeting has inspired me to help my school get on top of spreading awareness of e-cigs/vapes flavors.” Jasmin continued, “Hearing past SWAT members’ stories was really helpful because anything can be done, just don’t give up on it. The game Are You Smarter than a “YAB” Member really showed me I had learned some valuable information that I could leave with.”

Overall the meeting was fun and impactful, and it inspired all of the attendees, youth and adults alike, to take new ideas and knowledge back to their county SWAT programs to continue their fight against the tobacco industry’s attempts to addict the NEXXT generation of youth to nicotine.