News and Events

Levy Students Working Against Tobacco Members Serve as Regional Ambassadors
November 15, 2015

The Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida has designated four regions across the state for Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) County Chapters and each of these regions works together to achieve Florida’s statewide tobacco prevention goals. Each region has SWAT members who are elected by their peers to serve on a statewide Youth Advocacy Board (YAB). This fifteen member YAB advises the statewide tobacco prevention program and provides input on prevention initiatives.

SWAT Retreat

In November, Region 1 SWAT in northwest Florida hosted a weekend youth retreat in Panama City Beach. There were approximately 180 youth and more than 30 adults in attendance, representing each of the 18 counties in the region. The Region 1 YAB members who helped organize the event extended an invitation to YAB members in the other Florida SWAT regions to attend and serve as Regional Ambassadors for the weekend. Two YAB members and a member of the Region 2 Leadership Committee attended from Region 2, with two of those students representing Levy County and one representing Nassau County. Two YAB members from Region 4 were also in attendance.

In addition to providing support to their YAB team members in Region 1, the Regional Ambassadors who attended the weekend retreat were there to gather ideas and inspiration that they can use to plan similar events in their respective regions next spring. The three girls that attended from Region 2 spent the weekend taking notes and brainstorming agenda ideas for the Region 2 Retreat scheduled for March 11-13, 2015.

Levy Delegation
SWAT Region2 Delegation (From L to R) - Julie D'Errico, Jordan Marlett, Abby Bayacal

Jordan Marlett is a Levy County SWAT member who serves as one of the Region 2 YAB members. She attended the event and when asked what stood out to her the most about the weekend, she said, “My favorite part was being able to meet and talk with fellow YAB members.” She adds, “The Region 1 Retreat was both fun and informative and I can’t wait to recreate it in Region 2.”

The jam-packed weekend was full of inspiration, as there were activities that engaged both large and small groups of youth in leadership and learning in a fun atmosphere. The theme for the retreat was “Game Shows” and each presentation and activity tied into the theme for the weekend. There was a Carnival event, where each county set up a carnival-style game booth with prizes. Each SWAT member in attendance was encouraged to attend the carnival and test their tobacco knowledge and skills to win fun prizes. Some SWAT members also participated in a Talent Show on Saturday night to showcase various aptitudes and to have some fun.

Throughout the weekend the students participated in two groups of three rotating small group sessions with youth who presented topics including E-Cigarettes and Hookah, Street Marketing, Youth Empowerment and Leadership, Creative Ways to Send a Message, The Power of the Pen, and How to Stand Up, Speak Out, and Seize Control as SWAT members. These sessions were short and provided opportunities for youth engagement and hands-on activities.

“I really liked the rotating stations, which gave us a chance to meet new people and learn new things - not just from ourselves, but from the other kids there as well,” said Julie D’Errico, a Region 2 Leadership Committee member who attended from Levy County. She adds, “It was fun!”

Another notable agenda item from the weekend were several beach activities, where participants took a large group photo, advocated during a street marketing activity, and participated in a beach clean-up. “I really enjoyed taking a group SWAT picture on the beach,” said Julie. She added, “Getting to see all of the kids come together to create a wonderful picture – I feel like that really represents what we are all about – coming together to create something beautiful.”

On the last day of the retreat, the SWAT members broke out into small groups with their counties and the YAB members from Regions 1, 2, and 4 met together to brainstorm ideas to implement in their counties. The youth also heard from a motivational speaker, who started out as a SWAT member in Florida and now works for the national Truth campaign.

Levy Delegation
Photobooth Fun! Levy Delegation (From L to R): Julie D'Errico, TPS Kristina Zachry, and Jordan Marlett

Each of the girls from Region 2 who attended had a phenomenal time at the retreat and they left energized and ready to get to work on creating a similar event for Region 2. They plan to invite the other YAB members from around the state to attend as Regional Ambassadors, in the hopes that the event can help unify SWAT members across the state in their shared mission to fight the tobacco industry. 

Abby Bayacal, a Region 2 YAB member who attended from Nassau County, summed up the weekend enthusiastically: “The Region 1 Retreat was amazing!” says Abby. “It was a great time, and I really enjoyed interacting with the youth from Region 1 as well as the other YAB members! This was my first event as a YAB member, and I couldn't be more grateful for it. I made wonderful memories with the other SWAT members!”

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