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Third annual SWAT Summit trains future leaders | Health

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Third annual SWAT Summit trains future leaders
Health, News, People
Third annual SWAT Summit trains future leaders

New Port Richey - The third annual SWAT Leadership Summit was held on Saturday, June 22 at the James P. Gills Family YMCA in Trinity, Florida. SWAT, which stands for Students Working Against Tobacco, is Florida's statewide youth organization that works to achieve a tobacco-free future. SWAT youth do this by educating their peers about the harmful effects of tobacco use, aiding current tobacco users in their efforts to quit, and influencing local events and policy.

"The main purpose of the event was to unite the strong leaders we have in our counties", states Monica Rousseau, the SWAT Coordinator for Pasco County. "Most of these students hold officer positions in their school SWAT clubs and take great initiatives within their schools. Our goal today was to bring these leaders together and realize that we can expand SWAT's impact and create community change if we all work together."

Although SWAT students around the state work on the same initiatives, they don't often get to meet each other in person.  At the day long leadership summit, SWAT students from Pasco, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties were united - some for the first time- to learn how to better bridge their resources to create and maintain tobacco behavior change among youth.

"If youth don't fight for change, the culture won't change. It has to come from them." said Samantha Brighton, a Tobacco Policy Coordinator for the Florida Department of Health in Pasco County, "Tobacco use has always been an issue affecting youth. Almost 90% of adult smokers began smoking before the age of 18. Here in Pasco County, 1 in 5 high school students have tried tobacco."

The summit was designed to help youth realize the power they have to create change in their community's tobacco culture. The day was packed with trainings in emerging tobacco issues, event planning, advocacy, leadership, and teamwork. The highlight of the event for the students was the later part of the day, when attendees completed the rock wall climb, ropes course, and obstacle courses facilitated by the YMCA.

"The SWAT Summit was an experience to remember. It helped me realize that whenever working with a team, cooperation is essential." says SWAT member Mykenzie Robertson, "Teamwork is a virtue in accomplishing a goal. When working in a group, all minor steps add up to an action. You have to start small and build your way up to a greater cause."

To learn more about SWAT and their cause for tobacco control, please visit SWATFlorida.com.

To learn more about how to get involved in local SWAT events, initiatives, and programs, please contact Monica Rousseau at the Monica_Rousseau@doh.state.fl.us or (727) 861 - 5250 ext. 276.


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