News and Events

Levy SWAT Members Show Leadership at Regional Meeting
September 26, 2015

Florida’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program held its annual regional meeting on Saturday, September 25th, 2015. Every year, regional SWAT meetings take place in each of four regions across Florida on the same day, but in different locations. Approximately 42 SWAT members attended to represent Region 2 in Orange Park, as well as four Levy SWAT members.

Bronson High School Junior and SWAT Club Co-Chair, Jordan Marlett, not only attended the Region 2 meeting, but she also facilitated a session for advanced SWAT members and was elected for a statewide leadership position. Jamey Mullin, a SWAT Sophomore from Bronson High School also attended and facilitated a session for newer SWAT members. Dakota Phillips and Kelli Nerau attended the meeting to represent Levy County as participants. Dakota is a 10th grader and SWAT Co-Chair at Cedar Key School and Kelli is an 11th grade SWAT member at Chiefland High School.

Levy County SWAT members (L to R): Jordan Marlett, Jamey Mullin, Dakota Phillips, and Kelli Nerau

The regional meetings were planned during the summer by the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) and some extra work group members, along with some select adults in each region. Jordan has served on the YAB for the past year, and Jamey joined the planning process as a special work group member.

The theme for the regional meeting this year was a puzzle. The idea was based on the fact that Region 2 includes 21 counties and each county could be looked at as a piece of a puzzle. The motto “Pieces of the Puzzle, Part of the Whole” was developed during a planning meeting and put on a large piece of foam board, which was then cut into jigsaw pieces. The pieces were placed in sealed envelopes and hidden around the conference center as a scavenger hunt icebreaker activity to kick off the SWAT meeting. Each student who found a puzzle piece assembled them at the end of the day to show the completed image of the 4 regions of Florida. “The puzzle team builder was a fun and interactive activity,” said Jordan. “It all came together at the end and looked great.”   SWAT Puzzle

The viewing of the new SWAT Recruitment Video was up next on the agenda and Jamey facilitated a question and answer session where she asked the participants to brainstorm how they could use the recruitment video in their schools and community to inspire people to join the organization. This was Jamey’s first experience presenting and facilitating a portion of a youth meeting and she was very proud of herself. “It was a good experience,” she says. “I did better than I expected.”

Two learning sessions took place before lunch and two after lunch. The students delivered presentations to the attendees, who were split into two groups – newer SWAT members and more experienced SWAT members. The newer SWAT members attended a session called SWAT Overview, which Jamey delivered before lunch. It included an interactive puzzle activity where the kids had to use teamwork to collaborate on solving several small puzzles. The overview included information on the SWAT organization and what the members work on in Florida. During Jamey’s presentation, more experienced members attended a session called Advanced Communication delivered by Daniel Thomas from Flagler County.

After lunch, the experienced members in attendance participated in a session facilitated by Jordan, called Maximizing SWAT’s Potential. This session was designed to help guide SWAT members through creating a policy change advocacy plan using the MAD Skills brainstorming tool, which helps members brainstorm the Message, Audience, and Delivery for a desired policy change.

During her session, Jordan also introduced SWAT members to an Advocacy Skills and Experience Questionnaire, which they can use to assess the abilities of their SWAT members in an effort to match their skills up with projects that need to be completed during the course of advocating for policy change. At the same time as Jordan’s presentation, the less experienced members attended a session called SWAT Jumpstart delivered by Neelam Patel from Putnam County.

During the afternoon portion of the meeting, an election for the new 2015-2016 SWAT Youth Advocacy Board took place. 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.

Levy SWAT member, Jordan Marlett, served on the YAB last year and decided to run for a position again this year. She was elected by her peers to serve as an alternate on the Statewide YAB for Region 2. Jordan is excited to be representing Levy County again. “The regional meeting this year was very informational,” says Jordan, “I look forward to working with the YAB a second year.” This will be the seventh year in a row that Levy County has had a youth leader serving on the statewide board.

Finally, there was the unveiling of the new statewide activity calendar, which was facilitated by Daniel from Flagler County. The SWAT calendar is intended to help guide SWAT chapters with activity ideas for each month of the calendar year. Giant pages for each month of the year were printed out and put on the walls as decoration for the meeting. The very last item on the agenda was an announcement about the Region 2 SWAT Summit which will take place in March. SWAT members from every county were recruited to get on a planning committee for the regional meeting.

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. She spent many hours preparing the Maximizing SWAT presentation with SWAT member Jordan and the SWAT Overview presentation with Jamey, as well as working on the agenda items with the other adults and presenters.

Ms. Zachry is excited about Jordan’s YAB position and the leadership that both girls showed at the meeting. She says, “I’m thrilled that Jordan and Jamey stepped up and facilitated the regional meeting this year. I’m also proud of Jordan and her dedication to SWAT.” She continues, “I’m looking forward to supporting her continued work as a YAB member this year.”

When asked what they thought about the regional meeting, Kelli said, “I thought it was very informative for new members.” Dakota represented the more experienced member in attendance. “I have attended the YAB meeting for the second year in a row and I feel honored to be representing my county,” Dakota says. “I learn more and more every year, and every year they surprise me with new knowledge that I can bring home and inform my friends and family with.”

Dakota is a very passionate SWAT member from Cedar Key, so it means a lot to her to network with other SWAT members from around the region. She summarized her experience by saying, “I love meeting the other kids my age that are dedicated to the same thing I am and want to put the work in for the job to get done.”

For more information on the SWAT Program in Levy County, contact Kristina Zachry at