News and Events

Levy Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Leaders Help Facilitate Regional Meeting
October 21, 2017

Florida’s Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program hosts regional youth meetings annually where SWAT members from various counties come together to learn new information and skills. These meetings are planned and executed by the Florida 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 for each of Florida’s four tobacco control regions, and Levy County has two students represented on the Region 2 YAB: Laycee Hallman, a senior at Williston High School, and Emma Ronchetti, a sophomore at Chiefland High School.

This year’s meeting for Region 2 took place on Saturday, October 21, 2017. Approximately 44 SWAT members representing 22 counties attended to represent Region 2 in Starke, including four Levy SWAT members. Levy County’s regional YAB members, Laycee and Emma, attended the meeting and helped facilitate several of the sessions. Taylor Williams, a Senior at Bronson High School and Rebecca King, an 8th grade SWAT member from the Cedar Key School also attended the regional meeting to represent Levy County and learn new skills to share with their school SWAT teams and other Levy SWAT members.

Levy County SWAT Members (from L to R):
Emma Ronchetti, Taylor Williams, Rebecca King, Laycee Hallman

The theme for the region 2 SWAT meeting was “What’s Your Why?” There are many reasons that members of Students Working Against Tobacco in Region 2 and across the state joined the organization and each member has a personal motivation when they contribute their creativity to the fight against the tobacco industry. This meeting challenged each SWAT member to find their “why” and use it as motivation in the work that they do locally. There was also an opportunity for students to take photos together in a fun photo booth, which was a big hit with the students in attendance, as well as their adult chaperones.    

The agenda for the regional meeting focused on inspiration and empowerment through a presentation by a keynote speaker, Samuel Allen. Mr. Allen was the keynote speaker for the 2016-2017 Levy SWAT Summit and the youth in attendance felt that he was very impactful with his message. Levy County was excited to be able to recommend him to share his message with the region, and even more excited about the positive reception he received from the SWAT members in attendance. Mr. Allen led the group through several team building activities as well as inspired them with his message of perseverance and passion for impacting social change. All the Levy students who attended the meeting raved about Mr. Allen’s keynote speech.

“Sam Allen came to my region 2 SWAT meeting and truly inspired everyone there. I could feel the energy in the room when he was talking,” said Emma Ronchetti. She continued, “He talked about his past and how he accomplished his goals through hard work and perseverance and I walked away with a sense of newfound passion for taking down Big Tobacco.”

Taylor Williams felt similarly, “This year’s SWAT regional meeting was one of the best things I’ve ever been to,” said Taylor. She continued, “Hearing Sam Allen speak again was just as moving as the first time and I got to meet some very amazing people. I learned a lot about big tobacco and how they target teens and kids.”

After lunch, Laycee and Emma, along with two other regional YAB members, presented information to the group about Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), as well as information from Taking Down Tobacco, a Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids tobacco prevention peer education program.

“The region 2 meeting was so fun,” said Laycee Hallman. She added, “Being able to meet new people, and being able to present to them was an incredible experience. Everyone had so much energy and there was just so much inspiration in one room.”

Emma Ronchetti also was excited to present information to her peers and facilitate the meeting. Emma said, “I got to connect with amazing youth from all over my region and I made some new friends.” She added, “I was able to lead some of my first sessions and I felt so confident and comfortable with the group that I wasn’t even nervous.”

SWAT members benefit so much from face-to-face meetings – they increase their issue-specific knowledge, they collaborate across counties on initiatives, and they strengthen their commitment to the tobacco prevention movement and the Florida SWAT Program through teambuilding activities.

Rebecca King left the meeting feeling very inspired and ready to plan her next steps as a SWAT member. “During today’s region 2 meeting I started to think about what I could do at my school, to tell the other kids about e-cigs and other electronic nicotine delivery devices,” said Rebecca. She added, “I want them to know how they are just as dangerous as cigarettes and how they’re targeting teens without them saying they are.”

Overall, the meeting was impactful and inspiring, and the students who attended from Levy County left feeling excited to be a part of such an important program, and they were overflowing with ideas for how they can share their newfound knowledge with their peers.