News and Events

Levy County Holds its 10th Annual SWAT Summit!
May 10, 2017

The Levy County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program held their 10th Annual Leadership and Advocacy Summit on May 10, 2017 in High Springs at Camp Kulaqua. There were a total of 75 SWAT members and adult SWAT Advisors in attendance for a jam-packed day of learning and team-building. The students in attendance represented Bronson Middle High School, Chiefland High School, Williston Middle High School, and Cedar Key School.

The Levy County SWAT Chapter

The group heard an inspiring keynote speech from Sam Allen of Allen Ortiz Consulting. The Florida Department of Health in Levy County graciously covered the cost of the keynote speaker for the Tobacco Prevention Program. Sam shared his personal story through an engaging presentation titled: “From Good to Great: Seven Things I’d Tell My Younger Self.” Many of the SWAT members in attendance were inspired by his presentation, and indicated their enthusiasm for his message in their evaluations of the event.

Williston SWAT member Laycee Hallman appreciated Sam’s message. “He was very inspirational - he taught us no matter who you are or where you come from, you can get your voice out there and heard,” said Laycee. “The entire day was just an amazing experience.”

Group Selfie with Sam Allen

Chiefland SWAT member Emma Ronchetti decided to take her leadership to the statewide level after hearing Sam’s presentation. “His inspiring messages about the harmful ways of Big Tobacco got me fired up about my own SWAT life,” said Emma. “That day, because of his message, I signed up to run for the Youth Advocacy Board, which I’ve always been so scared to do. Thanks to him, he gave me motivation to finally go for it, and I’m so glad I’m going to run.”

One of the goals for the SWAT Summit was to identify youth who are interested in becoming leaders at the county, regional, and state level. Both Laycee and Emma have expressed their intentions to run for a Region 2 SWAT Youth Advocacy Board position at the Statewide SWAT Meeting in June.

After the morning keynote speech and some energizing team building games, the students enjoyed lunch outdoors before gearing up for the afternoon agenda. The group was excited to welcome a special lunch guest to the summit – Bronson SWAT Advisor, Cindy Austin, who has been out of school this semester courageously fighting cancer. She came to support her school SWAT team and see her daughter receive her senior cord. It was an emotional visit for the students, but it meant a lot to them to see her and remember why they fight Big Tobacco every day.

During the afternoon portion of the summit, each school SWAT team delivered engaging presentations to their peers, highlighting the various activities and initiatives their school SWAT clubs completed throughout the year. The group also heard a presentation about how to get creative with SWAT messaging and activities to support Levy County’s policy change goals for the next year.

The last activity of the day was a recognition ceremony, where the Tobacco Prevention Program thanked the Levy SWAT advisors and some outstanding SWAT leaders with small tokens of appreciation. The Tobacco Program also recognized the graduating senior members with certificates and senior cords.

Levy SWAT Seniors: Back Row (Left to Right) Jacob Edison, Cheyenne Horne, Elena Richardson, Anthony Strong, Kelli Nerau; Front Row (Left to Right) Jordan Marlett, Tobacco Prevention Specialist Kristina Zachry, Emma Gufford

Overall, it was a fantastic day of learning and collaboration and the students left inspired and ready to hit the ground running for their SWAT chapter through the summer and into the fall. Levy County SWAT is also excited to have some new leaders who have stepped up to be engaged at the regional and statewide level.