News and Events

Levy County Represented on Statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board
August 20, 2017

The Florida Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Program held their statewide meeting this summer and members from across the state attended to represent their county SWAT programs and network with their peers from other regions.

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together youth from each of Florida’s 67 counties for a weekend of learning, teambuilding, and anti-tobacco advocacy and engage them around the theme of “Ignite.” Additionally, during this meeting, the youth in attendance held an election for their regional representatives to serve on the statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board (YAB). 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 elected for each of Florida’s four tobacco control regions.

The 2017-2018 Region 2 Statewide SWAT Youth Advocacy Board Members (L to R) are Amaya Figueroa (Baker County), Emma Ronchetti (Levy County), Destiny Cole (Flagler County), and Laycee Hallman (Levy County) with Region 2 SWAT Coordinator, Dave Powell (Putnam County)

SWAT members Laycee Hallman (Senior, Williston High School) and Emma Ronchetti (Sophomore, Chiefland High School) attended the statewide SWAT meeting to represent Levy County. The girls co-presented a breakout session for youth and adults with Levy County Community Health Advocate Kristina Zachry. Finally, both girls ran for a position on the Region 2 Youth Advocacy Board and were elected by their peers to serve one-year terms. For the past eight years, a student from Levy County has served on the statewide board, and this is the first time Levy County has had the opportunity to have two youth serve in this capacity.

“I’m extremely proud of how well Laycee and Emma represented Levy at the statewide meeting,” says Kristina Zachry. “Both girls have been SWAT members for several years and have demonstrated exceptional leadership in the local community and at school, so I am excited they have the opportunity to contribute to the state program now as well.”

From (L to R): Laycee Hallman, Emma Ronchetti,
and Levy County Tobacco Prevention Specialist Kristina Zachary

The experience of running for the statewide YAB position was notable for both students. “Running for YAB was extremely fun,” says Laycee, “I was very nervous at first, but after getting to know everyone I felt more relaxed. Now being a part of this amazing YAB team I hope we can accomplish more awareness of tobacco use and the dangers of it, and hopefully recruit new members.”

Emma also felt some pressure. “I was a nervous (but excited) wreck when preparing to run,” she says. “When I heard my name being called for the new YAB members, I was overcome with happiness and excitement. I was swarmed with congratulations and positive messages from people that I didn’t even know.”


The girls enjoyed the content of the meeting as well, which featured an interactive SWAT time line scavenger hunt among other agenda items. “We had a keynote speaker, a talent show, really informative and interactive sessions, a dance party, and more,” says Emma. “I had such a great and unique time with all of those wonderfully talented people.”

Laycee added, “Something that we talked about a lot at the statewide meeting was upping the tax on tobacco, and we hope this will show tobacco users just how much of their money is going to their addiction and hopefully they will quit.”

The girls jumped right into representing their region and participated in weekly conference calls throughout the summer as well as a face-to-face meeting in August, where they came together with their newly elected peers and planned the upcoming year for SWAT advocacy. Laycee and Emma have already contributed to planning a statewide SWAT initiative on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, a regional SWAT meeting in October, and an activity calendar that is full of ideas for how SWAT members around Florida can participate in National Tobacco Control Observances and other activities to share their message.

Overall, Laycee has found the YAB experience to be “inspirational.” She adds, “I have learned so many new techniques and ways to put our message out there. I can’t wait to see what we will do next.”

Emma is also excited about the opportunity. She says, “The support system in SWAT is surely a special one and I am so excited to help represent them all.” She adds, “I am nervous about heading into uncharted waters with this new YAB position, but I know I have amazing people cheering me on and I cannot wait to see what this year has in store for us.”

The girls’ next adventure will be serving as Region 2 YAB Ambassadors in Panama City Beach for the Region 1 SWAT Retreat in late September.