News and Events

Dixie County Youth Attend Regional Students Working Against Tobacco Training in Palatka, Florida
November 5, 2016

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) members take their mission to save their generation from tobacco use very seriously. Not even the first hurricane to hit the State of Florida in a decade could dampen their resolve to be the voice of youth working against the influence of Big Tobacco.  Youth in the region were all set to gather together to commit themselves to regional and local plans to engage peers and community members to take a stand against tobacco when Hurricane Matthew appeared in the Atlantic. Although their meeting had to be postponed, not even the winds of a hurricane stopped their determination to work together to impact their communities for change.

Dixie County SWAT Youth Mary Whittington and Alice Whittington

After the winds died down and power was restored, on November 5th, two Ruth Rains Middle School SWAT youth from Dixie County and youth from SWAT Region 2, gathered together in Palatka to do just that as they gathered together under the theme, “Leave Your Mark”.  The training started out with a series of ice breakers designed to help the youth get to know each other, as well as providing activities that can be brought back into their own communities to use with their individual clubs.  Current work and tobacco prevention trends around the country were discussed, as SWAT youth learned about the nationwide movement to raise the smoking and tobacco use age to 21.

Next, SWAT youth learned and practiced essential skills with each other. Youth learned basic principles for running an effective SWAT meeting while focusing on things that make their own community special. The members also participated in several activities with groups which helped them learn about using good communication skills to spread their message more effectively. This activity included a challenge aspect so that each partner was required to be very clear and specific with his or her communication in order to successfully complete the task. 

Additionally, SWAT youth who were interested in becoming leaders in the Youth Advocacy Board, which is the statewide SWAT leadership group, gave speeches and took questions from attendees. Regional meetings serve as a way for members from around the state to not only learn about key tobacco issues, but to participate in statewide leadership as a culminating activity for some high school students who wish to serve in that capacity.

The whole training event wrapped up with each SWAT member literally leaving a mark by placing hand prints along with their county name on a larger mural with each county represented. Mary and Alice Whittington were proud to represent the Dixie County SWAT youth. This truly represents the importance of each SWAT club because it takes many individual people with dedication, passion and different talents to succeed in making this the generation that breaks away from Big Tobacco.

For more information on the SWAT Program in Dixie County, contact Melanie Anderson at