News and Events

Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Represented at Regional Meeting
November 5, 2016

At least once a year, Florida’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program hosts regional meetings where youth come together to learn new skills and elect their representatives for the statewide Youth Advocacy Board. This year’s meeting for Region 2 took place on Saturday, November 5th, 2016. Approximately 44 SWAT members representing 22 counties attended to represent Region 2 in Palatka, including two Levy SWAT members. Chiefland High School Seniors, Elena Richardson and Kelli Nerau, attended the Region 2 meeting to learn new skills to share with their school SWAT team and other Levy SWAT members.

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, including the Levy County Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Kristina Zachry. Mrs. Zachry worked closely with Levy SWAT member Dakota Phillips, who helped plan the details for the meeting until she unexpectedly had to relocate out of town with her family early in the school year.

Levy SWAT Members Elena Richardson (Left) and Kelli Nerau (Right)
with Tobacco Prevention Specialist Kristina Zachry (Center) at the Region 2 SWAT Meeting

“Dakota put in a lot of time and creativity with her peers to plan this meeting,” said Mrs. Zachry. “It’s disappointing that she had to move and was not able to attend the meeting and see the result of her hard work and planning, but the show must go on.”


The theme for the region 2 SWAT meeting was “Leave Your Mark.” Florida SWAT has a legacy of achieving great success when it comes to battling the tobacco industry. There are many ways that members of Students Working Against Tobacco members in Region 2 and across the state plan to contribute their creativity to the fight against the tobacco industry and leave their mark on tobacco prevention and control.

The agenda for the regional meeting focused on team building activities as well as a fun activity that helped build facilitation skills for leading SWAT meetings. The SWAT members in attendance also learned about new advocacy tools and how they can contribute to a statewide campaign to raise the age of purchase for tobacco to 21 years old in Florida.

Elena Richardson left the meeting feeling very inspired and ready to plan her next steps as a SWAT member. “The meeting was very interactive and helped with outreach to different counties involved in SWAT,” said Elena, “The games tested our knowledge on how much we knew about Big Tobacco and their effects on teens, which was a good reminder about what our mission was and everyone’s involvement to stop the industry’s influence on young people.”

During the afternoon portion of the meeting, an election for the new 2016-2017 SWAT Youth Advocacy Board took place. 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 for each of Florida’s four tobacco control regions.

Elena and Kelli were very happy to be invited to represent Levy County at the regional meeting, and they spent time on the way home from the meeting outlining a plan for what they wanted to do at their school to get SWAT members more involved and how they can share their message with more SWAT members in the county.

It’s always fun when you can network with other youth advocates and leave a meeting feeling like you have expanded your skills. When asked what she thought about the regional meeting, Kelli said, “It was fun and I met a lot of new people from surrounding counties. I also learned how to lead a meeting, which is very helpful.”