Marion County Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) Members Attend Statewide SWAT Training
June 12, 2019

The 2019 SWAT Statewide Meeting was held in Fruitland Park, FL from June 7-9. While this was not my first SWAT retreat, it was a first for the three youth who attended. Upon check-in, all were pleasantly surprised to learn that the breakout sessions  could be selected as attendees desired. There were several to choose from including Youth Advocacy, SWAT-vocate, Public speaking, Social Media Marketing, and News Media Advocacy. Selections were made all moved on to the main room where we were entertained with a game of tobacco bingo while waiting for more youth to arrive. 

Opening ceremonies commenced promptly at 4pm and our jammed packed, fun-filled weekend was in full swing! Attendees heard from Laura Corbin, Bureau Chief for Tobacco Free Florida, Sachit Gali, President of the Youth Advisory Board, and LaDarius Gammage, Statewide Youth Advocacy Coordinator. They explained the purpose of the meeting and gave a brief overview of NEXXT as, this will be the next generation to stand up to Big Tobacco. The entirety of the retreat was focused on this central theme. Since the regions are divided by location in the state, introductions continued with the other Region 2 SWAT members, and then attendees were broken up into random groups to play games and participate in some of the planned activities.

The first activity started with basic tobacco industry information and statistics, which was an extremely helpful refresher course and a great way to kick off the event. The following session was facilitated by Tricia Dahl, from Yale School of Medicine, and she detailed the information on e-cigarettes and the dangers of vaping. Ms. Dahl’s entire field of study is focused on tobacco and youth; she had extensive knowledge to share and the youth really enjoyed hearing from a verified expert in the field.

One of the favorite games played throughout the weekend was “Are You Smarter Than A YAB Member?”  During “down” times, questions from previous sessions were displayed on the main screen and each team had the opportunity to earn points by answering questions correctly.  At the end of the retreat, the points were tallied up and the winning team was treated to gift cards. This was an innovative method to ensure that the youth were paying attention during the educational sessions.  Another well received activity was the “Snow Ball Fight.” The youth were instructed to write an accomplishment on a piece of paper and crumple it into a ball; then throw it across the room.  This went on for several minutes and then were instructed to pick up a “Snow Ball,” open it and read the accomplishment. This inspired all the youth as to what they are capable of accomplishing as individuals if they apply themselves.

On Day 2, a SWAT Tank session was held, the youth were divided into their regions and instructed to come up with an anti-tobacco message and a technique to promote that message. Marion County youth, as part of region 2, created a parody of “Old Town Road” by designing a music video to accompany it. The result was so creative; the youth had so much fun developing it, but ultimately, the Shark Tank judges went with Regions 3’s message which focused on the positive reason to stay away from tobacco. This selected message will be the central theme of the 2019-2020 SWAT year. Since the youth were instrumental in creating the message, it created a sense of ownership and involvement in the promotion of it. The day concluded with a talent show and dance party with lots of laughter and new friendships made!

This year’s retreat was full of informative, educational and skill building breakout sessions that the youth will be able to apply to their SWAT Club and other areas of their lives.  The weekend was intense, and the youth took in an extensive amount of information. The SWAT leadership is excited for the upcoming SWAT Club year and looking forward to seeing how the youth incorporate the new campaign into their activities!


If you would like more information on the Tobacco Prevention Program, Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT), or the QuitDoc Foundation, please visit the website or contact the Marion County SWAT coordinator
Tammy Slaughter: 352.209.9628