News and Events

School is Back in Session for the Levy Tobacco Prevention Program
August 13, 2016

July and August were busy months for the Levy County Tobacco Prevention Program as the Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) and the Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program geared up for the Fall. This summer was unusually short as the students in Levy started school earlier this year than they have in the past. Tobacco Free Partnership and SWAT members attended several back to school events at the end of the summer to promote membership and support returning students with tobacco prevention information and resources for parents who want to quit using tobacco. One of the most notable events that the Tobacco Prevention Program attended this summer was the Chiefland First United Methodist Church’s Annual End of Summer Back to School Bash.

The purpose of the Back to School Bash is to give away free backpacks and school supplies to the many children and families in Levy County who are unable to provide these items on their own for school. Various community organizations and agencies participate in this event every year to serve nearly 800 youth.

The Tobacco Free Partnership set up a booth at the event and shared information and resources with the families in attendance. There were many adults who engaged in conversations about the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure, smokeless tobacco, and the importance of quitting tobacco use. Additionally, this event was an opportunity to promote the Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program and recruit new members.

One particular young student stood out this year at two back to school fairs. Her name is Rhylin and she is a 5-year-old starting elementary school. She attended the Back to School Bash in Chiefland with her parents and was enamored with learning about the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure and using tobacco. She was also at her school’s back to school night in Williston a few days later, where she headed straight to the Tobacco Free Partnership table to learn even more. This young lady deserves an honorary junior membership in SWAT! Her parents both quit smoking when they found out they were expecting Rhylin five years ago and they stressed how important it was to them to protect her from secondhand smoke. More importantly, they noted that Rhylin helps keep them motivated every day to stay quit from tobacco.  

In addition to attending back to school events, school SWAT clubs have been getting started up for the year in the majority of Levy’s middle and high schools, where several established SWAT advisors are beginning the process of building their SWAT teams. There have been a few staff changes with school SWAT advisors this year. The most notable change was the retirement of the Cedar Key SWAT Advisor, Mrs. Janeice Smith. Cedar Key certainly will miss Mrs. Smith, as she was a fun and impactful SWAT advisor who always engaged her team in the community, especially during community events and coastal cleanups. Cedar Key has a new advisor this year, Mrs. Nancy Pelham, and she is excited to get started and already has several projects lined up for the SWAT members to participate in.

Another significant change to the Levy SWAT Chapter is a new school campus in Williston, which now combines the campuses for the middle and high school into one massive campus. The Tobacco Prevention Program has combined the middle and high school SWAT teams into one team with one returning advisor, Ms. Carmen Ward. Although Chiefland Middle High School is now a combined school, they still have separate campuses, and the Tobacco Prevention Program will now have a separate advisor for each campus to help build membership up and keep the members engaged.

Long-time SWAT advisors Ms. Mary Phillips (Chiefland High School) and Mrs. Cindy Austin (Bronson Middle High School) have returned and are already working to engage their school SWAT team members. The Tobacco Prevention Program is currently seeking SWAT advisors for Chiefland Middle School and for Yankeetown School – please contact the Levy County Community Health Advocate, Kristina Zachry, at if you are a staff member at either of these schools and are interested in learning more and applying for the SWAT advisor position or if you would like to establish a school or community SWAT team.