News and Events

Florida’s Tobacco Prevention Youth Advocacy Board Has a Penchant for Planning
August 26, 2016

The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) was established in 2008 to help guide the Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida’s youth tobacco prevention program. The members are responsible for informing the Bureau about the most effective methods to reach their peers with tobacco prevention messaging and what the content of those messages should be.

These students are a dedicated group of youth who are united in fighting Big Tobacco and succeeding together. They volunteer countless hours to engage their peers and build their organization and the work they do is commendable. The YAB hosts monthly conference calls and annual regional meetings for their peers around Florida where they share new information, provide skill building opportunities, brainstorm new social networking themes, and generate ideas for SWAT member recruitment, engagement, and retention.

Dakota Phillips (L), and Levy County TPS Kristina Zachry (R)

The Youth Advocacy Board consists of four SWAT members from each of four regions in Florida, for a total of sixteen statewide leaders. At annual regional meetings, county SWAT members are elected by their peers to serve as representatives on this statewide board. Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) representative Dakota Phillips is a Junior at Williston High School and a recently appointed member of the YAB for Region 2. 

The YAB meets via conference call weekly, as regions monthly, and together as an entire board at least once a year. The YAB just held their annual face-to-face meeting, where the members came together to plan for the future of SWAT. YAB members for each region sharpened their planning and brainstorming skills by participating in sessions designed to assess their respective regional needs and plan for upcoming regional meetings. The students spent an entire weekend participating in planning and walked away with a solid foundation for how they will host their respective meetings and draft agendas. The YAB members will now communicate via conference calls and regional YAB meetings to put the final touches on their presentations and activities.

Region 2 SWAT Youth Advocacy Board Members (from L to R)
Abby Bayacal, Dakota Phillips, and Daniel Thomas

Overall, the planning weekend was a huge success, and the SWAT YAB members accomplished a lot. Levy County Community Health Advocate, Kristina Zachry, chaperoned Dakota for the meeting and she is proud of the progress the group made. “It’s inspiring to watch these SWAT leaders work together to build their prevention program,” Kristina says, “it’s great to see them utilize their skills as they plan meetings to bring their peers together.”

Reflecting on her first experience at an overnight YAB meeting, Dakota said, “The meeting was fun and unforgettable! It was full of new ideas and new opportunities.” She continues, “I met all the other YAB members and I was so comfortable and felt so important to the group. I'm happy I was able to go!”

Dakota will be running for election at the upcoming Region 2 SWAT meeting on October 8th and she has high hopes that she will be elected to continue her work with her statewide peers on the YAB to fight Big Tobacco.