SWAT members from counties in central Florida visited Tallahassee in Spring 2016 to meet with decision makers and tour the Capitol.
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“It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.” – Paulo Coelho
Hello, my name is David Egues, and this is my third year in Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT). I am a Senior at Western High School in Broward County. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in educating my peers, friends, and family on the dangers of tobacco use. Now I am glad to say that I can, as my time in SWAT continues to help me learn how to properly advocate anti-tobacco measures and information to aid others in becoming aware of tobacco’s harmful effects. While I have partaken in leadership roles in my local chapter, including Vice President and Secretary, I felt I needed to become more involved in SWAT to contribute to a greater impact. For this reason, I decided to join the Youth Advocacy Board this year to become more committed to the cause and meet others like me who also spread the anti-tobacco message. Outside of SWAT, I enjoy participating in my local boy scout troop, reading a variety of novels, and going on long walks to become more familiar with the world around me.
“Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone.” – Billy Cox
Hey, I’m Saesha Wani! I am currently a high school junior in the SWAT club at José Martí MAST 6-12 Academy in Miami-Dade County! I got involved in SWAT about three years ago when it was first introduced at my school. I joined because I wanted to work towards the ultimate goal of creating a tobacco free future. Tobacco has affected my life as big tobacco continues to target many of my family members and friends. Therefore, I was so excited to join a group of students with similar interests and to advocate for tobacco control. Since then, Students Working Against Tobacco has been a big part of my life. SWAT has allowed me to get involved in my school and make a difference in my community! After being involved in my school’s SWAT chapter for a year, I decided to take my journey with SWAT a step further and run for the YAB. This is my second year on the YAB, and I am ready to make our goals of a tobacco-free future a reality and be Big Tobacco’s biggest nightmare. Outside of SWAT, I am part of my school’s Student Government, Key Club, and STEM Club. I enjoy getting involved in my community, and I am always pushing myself to try new things!
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” – Oprah Winfrey
As a child, I was unaware of the effects tobacco had on my environment and the people around me. My family consisted of very few smokers, but there was one I was around constantly, my grandfather. One day he decided it was time to quit, and I began to do some research. I found out about Big Tobacco companies and their harmful marketing tactics. This led me to join SWAT. My grandfather’s courage inspired me to join several other clubs, including student government, student council, etc. I’ve been a part of SWAT for two years now, and I’m excited to continue to grow and advocate with the Youth Advocacy Board.
“The best things in life, the very best things happen unexpectedly.” – Mamma Mia (2008)
Hi, my name is Isabella Velez, and I’m currently a junior from Broward County. I’ve been in SWAT for three years and can safely say that joining has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my high school career. Tobacco use has always been a topic that has interested me, especially in middle school and high school. I’ve seen tobacco affect multiple friends and family members, so when I first found out about. SWAT, as a freshman, I joined without hesitation. Being in SWAT has given me multiple opportunities to help educate my peers, family, and outside community on the effects of using tobacco products. Aside from being an officer in SWAT, I’m involved in my school’s chapter of HOSA and color guard. I hope that by being a YAB member I can share my ideas and help make a greater impact throughout the state. I look forward to this upcoming year of spreading SWAT’s message and being on the YAB!
“The first step is to say you can.” – Will Smith
Hey! I’m Kyle King! I’m currently a senior attending Miami Palmetto Senior High in Miami Dade County. I joined SWAT because I was interested in making a profound impact on the youth of my community. Through SWAT, I was able to gain the ability to teach others of the dangers and negative effects that they may not have known before. I’m glad to work with other YAB members to achieve goals and make an impact on a larger scale. Outside of SWAT, I work on music and film production. I enjoy playing basketball with friends and studying business.
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein
My Name is Mahika Podarala. I am currently an 8th grader studying at Seminole Science Charter School. My interests include competitive swimming, classical singing, science fair, and community service. A few of my hobbies include origami, drawing, playing the piano, and hanging out with my friends and family. An interesting fact about myself is that I was born in Colorado. Recently, I have been elected to be part of the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) and am looking forward to working with my peers to spread awareness about the dangers of vaping. I enjoy being a part of SWAT as it gives me the opportunity to collaborate with others who share the same goal and make a positive difference in my community.
“We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.” – Virginia Satir
Hello everyone! I am Bryan, and I am currently a senior at Lake Gibson High School. I am extremely excited to be a part of the YAB this year, and I hope to expand my platform even more. I am involved in other clubs and programs such as HOSA, Equal People, and Upward Bound, which have given me the leadership skills that I need for this position. I can´t wait to see what this year has for us!
“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others.” – Douglas MacArthur
I am in SWAT because I want to show Big Tobacco companies that we will not be their lab rats and let them destroy people’s lives. My grandma got addicted to cigarettes and later had major health problems, including having part of her stomach removed. This was very eye-opening to me and made me want to fight even more against Big Tobacco companies. By being a part of SWAT and the YAB, I can help educate people about the dangers of tobacco use and possibly prevent them from using it. Big Tobacco is hurting many families, especially health-wise, and they need to be stopped. So, I am proud to be anti-Big Tobacco companies and tobacco free.
“Without struggle there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglas
My name is Gunner Reynolds. I became part of the YAB because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of my peers and my relatives. There’s a lot of people in my life that smoke and I don’t like it. Since joining the Hernando Community SWAT Club, I started to learn the truth about what Big Tobacco does to youth like me. They trick youth into smoking and vaping. Vaping has a sweet candy flavor, and they infuse it with a candy smell, like cherry and apple. By becoming a member of the Youth Advocacy Board, I will learn more facts about Big Tobacco, and it will prepare me to spread the word in my school, community, and nationwide. It is my pleasure and honor to serve on the YAB. I will represent Florida’s youth to the best of my ability. I am here as a YABer to work for you, and make real change happen for you! Together we will make history, while making Big Tobacco a thing of the past!!!
“They whispered to her, ‘You can’t withstand the storm’, and she whispered back, ‘I am the storm.'” – Unknown
Hi, I’m Mackenzie Donnelly. My pronouns are She/Her and I’m 14 years old. I am in 9th grade and attend Q.I. Roberts Jr/Sr High School. I have been in SWAT for around four years. I enjoy reading/writing and I am a very energetic person with an optimistic and upbeat personality.
“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” – James Bryant Conant
This is my fifth year in SWAT and third year on the YAB. I joined SWAT after losing my grandma to cancer. I’ve always wanted to change the world for the better, but I just never knew how. Being in SWAT helped me realize I want to create a tobacco free future. Thanks to my amazing first advisor (Hi Mrs. McCalligan!), my awesome first coordinator (Hey Kayla!), all the other dedicated adults who have helped me along the way, and my passion for the cause, I fell in love with SWAT. I can’t wait to give as much to SWAT as it’s given to me.
“Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.” – Mohandas Gandhi
My name is Ivy Baxter, and I have been a member of SWAT for three years. Recently, I had the honor of becoming a YAB member. I have always been passionate about creating a tobacco free atmosphere in my community and hope in the future to reach more people and discuss the effects of tobacco. Outside of SWAT, I attend Lecanto High School as a junior, and some of my hobbies are running and baking.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou
Hi, my name is Isabel Baxter, and I have been a SWAT member for the past three years. I have been in SWAT since 8th grade and am currently in 11th grade. I am proud to be a SWAT member as I appreciate what it stands for and how being a SWAT member can help our community. I decided to be a YAB member this year as I wanted a platform to spread more awareness of the dangers of tobacco use. As a Junior in High School, I have seen a lot of tobacco use in our youth community. My main priority is to help end tobacco use in our community, so our generation does not become the next tobacco-addicted generation.
“If not us, who? If not now, when?” – President John F. Kennedy
I have always desired to make a change in this world, and SWAT is one of the ways I am making my desire a reality. I am currently a student at Port St. Joe High School. I am an active member, and President of our SWAT chapter. I am also The Band of Gold’s historian and a senator in SGA. I am so glad that I get to have the opportunity to serve on the YAB. My dreams are being made true. The world is a better place, and I get to be a part of making it happen.
“Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you just keep moving.” – Albert Einstein
I have always had a passion for helping, and SWAT has allowed me to do that and more. Helping my generation in this war against Big Tobacco has enabled me to encourage thousands of people and it has truly sparked my passion. I have been a SWAT member for about three years and a YAB member for one and counting. I’m thrilled to be able to work with and be a part of this incredible family in the future.
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs
My journey with SWAT began during my freshman year when a teacher told me and some friends about it. That was just the beginning. Since then, I have attended every meeting and event we have hosted or assisted. SWAT became my second family, so I took it a step further and joined the leadership committee. Not long after that, I decided to run for the YAB. Joining SWAT was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made.
“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” – Malala Yousafzai
Currently, I am a senior at James Madison Preparatory High School in Madison County. The reason I joined was to get involved in extracurriculars and to support SWAT’s message and ultimate goal. To me, SWAT is a program that grants the ability to not only get involved in your community but to change it. Besides working with SWAT, I enjoy reading classics, studying languages, and identifying local plants. As of recently, I have taken an interest in physics and environmentalism.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama
Growing up, tobacco was a normal product used in my family. As I grew up, the effects of tobacco were starting to take action, and I didn’t want to let Big Tobacco win a war that I didn’t know had started. SWAT was there for me and gave me lots of opportunities and encouraged me to take action. I have been an active member of SWAT for the past five years and a YAB member for four. Recently, I became a National Youth Ambassador for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Outside of SWAT, I am the class president for the senior class at Osceola High School, vice president of the National Honor Society, and an All-American cheerleader.
“Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infection, and sudden infant death syndrome.”
I am involved in my local SWAT chapter because I want to inform as many people as possible about Big Tobacco and how and why tobacco companies target youth. I’ve been a member of SWAT for three years. My favorite SWAT moment was when I had the opportunity to go to a YAB meeting, even though I wasn’t a member of YAB. I learned many leadership skills and was able to utilize them in my county chapter. My favorite superhero is Superman because he would save anyone at any time and could still live a normal life. My hobbies and interests outside of school are Hi-Q and doing schoolwork online.
“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – Winnie the Pooh
Growing up, tobacco was a normal thing used by my family members every day. I have seen how addicting it can be. I have lost family members to the use of tobacco. I saw that SWAT was a club at my school wanting to spread awareness, help prevent tobacco use and stop big tobacco from targeting youth so I joined and have been in SWAT for four years now. Outside of SWAT, I am a member of BETA, HOSA, and SGA. I am also on the girls weightlifting team.
“Kid you’ll move mountains! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so… get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss
I am involved in SWAT because I am very passionate when it comes to working towards a tobacco free future. I absolutely admire the fact that everyone is so close and it produces a family environment. I also don’t want my peers to fall right into Big Tobacco’s lies and get hooked on something so deadly. I have been a member of SWAT for 3 years now. Some of my favorite “SWAT moments” would be last year’s regional retreat. I loved getting on stage and being able to communicate with my peers! I have also starred in two SWAT videos that are shared throughout the state of Florida! It was a great experience! waiting so… get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss
“If you are always looking in the rearview mirror sooner or later you will crash.” -unknown
I am involved in SWAT because I believe it’s a great cause. Not only do I believe it’s a great cause I have a passion for everything that SWAT stands for.
“Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” -Francis of Assisi
I am involved in SWAT because it has a good mission, and it gives students the opportunity to do things they never thought they could do. Working with SWAT is such a great way to serve my community for a reason I’m passionate about, and I’m so happy that I get to work with the group in the way I do. I have been a member of SWAT for about five years. I joined my county chapter when I was in sixth grade. My friend’s mother was one of our advisors from the health department, and she invited me to a meeting. I’ve been involved ever since. One of the events that sticks out most in my memory is the statewide meeting that was held in the summer of 2012. It was so much fun to be able to meet SWAT members from around the state and talk to them not just about what they were doing in SWAT but also what they were doing outside of SWAT, all while we were learning more about Big Tobacco and what we could do to fight it. The meeting was a great way to see that SWAT wasn’t just in one place; it was all over Florida, and all of its members were working towards the same goal, even if it didn’t feel like it when we were back in our own counties. The meeting was very informative, and I met so many wonderful people.
“Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama
I have been a SWAT member for the past five years. Currently, I am the Levy County SWAT Representative and I serve as the Youth Co-Chair of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Levy County. There is not a SWAT club at my new school, however, I am working with school administration and my Tobacco Prevention Specialist to get a team started there. I was the Cedar Key School SWAT Club President from 2012-2015. I was the founding member and President of the Williston High School SWAT Club for the 2015-2016 school year. In April of 2016, I stepped up to fill a vacancy on the SWAT Youth Advocacy Board for Region 2 and I was appointed to serve as a YAB member for the remainder of the YAB term. I have attended all YAB calls and meetings, and have taken on an important leadership role in planning the Region 2 SWAT meeting. I have also attended regional SWAT meetings for the past two years to represent Levy County.
“Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” – Og Mandino
I am involved in SWAT because I believe in making a positive change in the world and spreading awareness in tobacco use. This is my first year in SWAT and first year of SWAT! My favorite SWAT moment was YAB Elections.
“A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” -William Shakespeare
I am involved in SWAT because I want to make a difference in my community. It is important that we, as youth, take action to raise awareness for causes that are important to us.
“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” – Herman Melville
I am involved in SWAT because I believe in change. Tobacco use has been accepted for generations and it has not done a shred of good. It dissolves the population rather than preserving it. Thousands of individuals are being killed by this product everyday.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Einstein
Three years ago I joined SWAT because some of my family members were addicted to tobacco products and I was outraged with the reason why they started: They were targeted as rural youth and influenced by social norms. I want to better Florida’s youth by educating them.
“Life is too short to be anything but happy” by unknown
I have been a SWAT member for a total of 2 years and decided to join because many relatives of mine have gotten ill from tobacco products. Because of this, I have a passion for fighting against the Big Tobacco companies and SWAT enables me to do so. My favorite SWAT moment was when I saw Patrick Perez (a motivational speaker against tobacco companies) come to my school and danced for us to show other replacement ideas for tobacco products. A couple of kids in my grade volunteered to dance along and it was really funny watching them.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am involved in SWAT because it grants me the platform to fulfill my duties as a blossoming leader and advocator against tobacco. It is my desire to uplift, educate, captivate and empower my fellow peers.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi
I have been a SWAT member for 2 years now and joined because I wanted to expand my potential of taking new campaigns from a community level to a statewide level. I also want to educate the public/youth on the truth of Big Tobacco companies and inspire others. Although every moment as a member has been a memorable and unforgettable experience, my favorite memory was when I was elected to become a representative of region 4 on the Youth Advisory Board.
“When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do? Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” — from the movie Finding Nemo
The reason I am in SWAT is because I love to deglamorize Big Tobacco. Big Tobacco is a deceptive market that targets my peers and the ones I love. As a result of the deceptive market, I never had the opportunity to meet my grandmother who passed away from lung cancer. I support the military in many ways; therefore, I will fight against Big Tobacco’s market strategy toward our soldiers. My grandfather, another loved one lost to Big Tobacco, was a Green Beret in the Army. Having fought in the Vietnam and Korean wars, Big Tobacco targeted him and his peers for their masculinity. As a result, the mixture of tobacco chemicals and Agent Orange (a chemical spray) caused cancer in numerous places, leading to his death. The thing I admire most about SWAT is the counteraction of Big Tobacco’s deceptive market. These are the reasons I am fighting against Big Tobacco.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton.
I am involved in SWAT because I see it as a way to help future generations. I have seen and learned about how tobacco can negatively affect our health, economy, environment, and more. I am passionate about making sure that our generation is the one that ends smoking, and that future generations won’t have to go through the damage that past generations had to go through. I have been a member of SWAT for 5 years, from 7th grade to now. My favorite SWAT memory is when I had the chance to speak with state lawmakers about tobacco prevention. Not only was it very exciting for me, but it showed me how far SWAT can take me. It was also a great bonding experience for me and all the other SWAT members who spoke with me. Outside of school and SWAT, I love to code and practice martial arts. I am also involved in my school as a class officer and belong to the Model United Nations team.
Growing up, tobacco was a normal product used in my family. But as I got older, the effects of tobacco were starting to take effect, and I didn’t want to let Big Tobacco win a war I didn’t know had started. SWAT was there for me and gave me lots of opportunities and encouraged me to take action. I have been an active member of SWAT for the past three years. Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak to legislators at an open legislation meeting in Tallahassee. The trip was a great opportunity for me to build my character and confidence, and to learn new ways to effectively communicate with my peers and legislators. As my idol Barack Obama once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Outside of SWAT, I am the class president for my junior class at Osceola High School, National Honor Society member, and an All-American Cheerleader! When I’m not participating in these activities, I am spending my time with my family and dogs.
“Take action to see reward. Do nothing and be ignored.”
The first time I saw SWAT was on the news, where they described what they did and what further actions they were hoping to take. I decided right then and there to join SWAT. Every volunteer job was a step closer to the goal. All the educational advice I had received and was given was an eye opener. I shared this information with friends and family who are in the process of reaching their own success. I’ve met a lot of great people through the short five years that I’ve been involved. I’m 17 and chapter president for Seminole County, Region 3. This is my first year in YAB, but hopefully not my last, for I feel that I have much to gain and much to offer. I hope people never stop taking action to obtain their individual goals, and help us reach our overall goal.
“If you remain neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu
For me, SWAT is more than an advocacy program. It is a lifesaving program that teaches young people how powerful their voices truly are. I am a senior at Chipley High School in Washington County. I have been in SWAT going on 8 years, and I still get excited every time we take a positive step toward the first tobacco-free generation!
“If you want to walk the heavenly streets of gold, you gotta know the password, Roll Tide Roll!” — Bear Bryant
I am 100% against tobacco. My brother was in SWAT and I wanted to follow his lead. I feel passionate about the fight against Big Tobacco. I want to have the chance to let everyone know about tobacco and its harmful effects – especially my friends who are like family. I have been a member of SWAT for three years, since 6th grade. Every year during the homecoming parade the high school SWAT Club makes posters and floats with tobacco-related messages. They always invite the middle school SWAT to join them, and we get to ride on the float. In 5th grade, SWAT members came to my school and they had a truth poster contest. I got first place. I love being involved with SWAT at school events such as volleyball, basketball, and football games. I have had amazing experiences attending the last three SWAT retreats. Getting to know other SWAT members from around our region is so much fun!
Since my first SWAT meeting in 8th grade, I’ve realized why I joined. It’s because I feel as if SWAT can be beneficial to public health by reducing the number of people killed by tobacco products every year as well as have a positive effect on the environment will be a lot cleaner. My first SWAT event was at a beach cleanup. During that cleanup, I saw how much the environment is affected by tobacco products. Being on the YAB shows others and me what we, as part of the SWAT and YAB group, are really about by showing what we are really fighting for. I joined YAB to build up my local SWAT chapter, get others to see how serious the club is, and to get more members.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1
I have been a member of Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) for two years, and currently serve as the vice president of my county chapter. My involvement in SWAT is motivated by the fact that it utilizes proactive youth who are passionate about ending the terror of big tobacco companies. It establishes policies of health and wellness that will have lasting effects for years to come. I love facilitating ideas and taking part in resolutions that will benefit our society. One policy in particular that I would like to focus on in the coming year is secondhand smoke, especially its effects in multiple housing units such as apartment buildings. These past years in SWAT have allowed me to interact with so many amazing people, all working toward a healthier world free of tobacco. In my personal life, I love spending time with family and friends. I’m an active member of my church and enjoy playing volleyball. I am so proud to be on your SWAT Youth Advocacy Board!
I serve as the president of my school SWAT chapter, where I lead and aid my fellow members to reach their fullest potential and succeed in all their projects. In addition to being the president of my chapter, I am also an active participant in all chapter activities, which include events, projects, expositions, showcases, and movements. My favorite tobacco control observance is the Great American Smokeout, as it is an observance that recognizes not only people who realize the dangers of tobacco, but also the smokers themselves who attempt to quit. This observance encourages smokers to quit, even if only for a day, in order to highlight the health benefits of cessation. It also allows for smokers and non-smokers to work together for a cause that benefits everyone, as it reduces both firsthand and secondhand smoke. I encourage my fellow members to work to their maximum potential and inspire teamwork. Not only have I served in the Youth Advocacy Board (YAB), I have also served in Region 4’s Leadership Council, and am also currently the president of the St. Lucie County SWAT chapter. Serving on the YAB provides me with the opportunity to make a difference for not only my region, but for all of SWAT and the people in the state of Florida.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” ― Helen Keller
I joined SWAT because I wanted to be a part of the powerful movement that we represent. I believe that if America’s youth all stand together, we can create a chain reaction and help stop the use of tobacco products all over the world. This is my first year as a member, and I’m really glad I joined this amazing organization because the people that we work with are so helpful — they make you feel like family as soon as you join the organization. My favorite SWAT moment would definitely be this year at the Christmas Festival, when we walked around getting as many adults and teens to sign the smokeless tobacco pledge cards with the middle school SWATters. This was a great opportunity to see the younger generation’s views on tobacco as well as for them to see the older generation’s views, all at once. My favorite superhero is Captain America because he stands for justice and defends the weak. Much how our movement may represent a small percentage of those campaigning against tobacco, but as we come together, we are stronger. My favorite hobbies are helping out my friends and family by tutoring them after school and singing in my church choir; my favorite song is “How Great is Our God.”
I’m student at Explorer K-8 in Hernando County. I have served as the president of our SWAT program for three years. It is an honor to be the first student in Hernando County to be voted on to the Youth Advocacy Board (YAB) for SWAT. I look forward to working with all the YAB members to bring more awareness to the SWAT initiative, and share what I learn with the students of Hernando County.
“Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I have been involved in Santa Rosa County’s Students Working Against Tobacco program for almost 5 years. I am currently county chair for Santa Rosa. I am very passionate when it comes to Tobacco Prevention among youth. I have learned so much about my community and the State of Florida. I am proud to say that I am a part of this fight against tobacco and will always be fighting. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, and I found it here. Our youth fight to deglamorize big tobacco and save the community.
“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.” ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Hi! My name is Amanda Bouquet. I am currently in my junior year of high school and a part of Region 4. I have been in SWAT for a year now, and this is my first time on the YAB. I was born in Brazil and can speak three languages. I love to watch movies and go to sporting events. I spend a lot of my time volunteering and giving back to my community. I am extremely excited to be a part of the YAB this term!
“Smoking is the single largest cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.” – Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Hi, my name is Destiny Cole. I am currently a high school senior at Flagler Palm Coast High School and a college freshman at Daytona State College. I joined SWAT in my freshman year because it sounded like we would be doing secret government stuff. Turns out, it wasn’t the secret spy kind of SWAT, but one that has made a huge impact in my life. I really want to push the message that tobacco is one of the worst killers in the world and how people should stop using it.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein
I am a part of SWAT because I want to help eliminate the use of tobacco-related products. Although cigarette smoking has declined, it is far from eliminated, and electronic nicotine delivery systems are increasing in prominence at a rapid rate, especially in youth. I have seen my peers and even friends use these, which sparked my initial interest in SWAT. My hobbies are woodworking, surfing and diving, and I am in Model United Nations and Debate at my school.
“Stay golden pony boy, stay golden.”- The Outsiders
This is my third year in SWAT. I am the president of my SWAT chapter. I joined SWAT to make people aware of Big Tobacco companies and how they are being targeted.
“Don’t explain your philosophy; embody it” – Author unknown.
I hope through hard work and dedication, all of SWAT can work together to defeat the deconstructive effects of the Tobacco Industry.
“Be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody.” – Kid President
I am a senior at Williston Middle High, I have been in SWAT since I was in 6th grade, and have been president for almost 3 years. I first became involved with SWAT because I saw how tobacco was affecting my friends and family, and I thought the only way I could help was to join and get the word out.
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” – John Lennon
My name is Hännah Ford and I am a junior at Sarasota Military Academy in Sarasota, FL. I have been a member of SWAT for 6 years now, starting my experience during the summer before entering 6th grade. Throughout my time in the Sarasota SWAT chapter, I have been able to participate in dozens of beach and park cleanups, talk with local and state politicians, and join forces with other clubs on Kick Butts Day. In addition, I was part of the chapter leadership program for three years as vice president at the Lee Wetherington Boys and Girls Club SWAT, and as social media coordinator for two years in the county-wide group. Students Working Against Tobacco has given me a chance to voice my opinion on tobacco-related issues (such as tobacco free campuses) and has also given me a platform to share the Tobacco Industry’s point of sale tactics with other concerned citizens. Tobacco use has diminished relationships between many of my family members, including the relationship between my biological father and me. My SWAT purpose is to assist youth in strengthening their knowledge on the issue at hand and save the connections of those impacted by the use of tobacco. Outside of this organization, I share a passion for business and marketing strategies and consider myself a young entrepreneur. Being a part of the YAB allows me to use my strong suits and creativity to tackle problems, preventing others from becoming one.
“The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” – Coco Chanel
Hey everyone, my name is Taylor Roberts! I live in Wewahitchka, Florida with my adoptive mother, older brother, and stepdad. I’m going into my senior year at Wewahitchka High School, and I’m a drum major of the Gator Sound Marching Band. My favorite subject in school is English. My passions include reading, drumming, and educating people alongside my fellow SWAT members!
“Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.” – Rosa Parks
My name is Robert Kordon. I am a 7th grader at Challenger K-8 from Hernando County. SWAT is probably the best decision I have ever made in my school life. SWAT is like my second family—every person in SWAT is an empowered anti-tobacco activist who knows what they are doing and what they want, and what we all want is a Tobacco Free Future. Being voted onto the YAB is such a great opportunity to spread the voices of the people in my region and make them be heard.
“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” – Paulo Coelho
Hi, I’m Emma. My journey with SWAT began in 6th grade when my math teacher insisted I join. I ended up enjoying the message that SWAT conveys. I love how in SWAT we don’t bash smokers but, instead, we educate them on how the tobacco industry targets them. Other than SWAT, I enjoy things such as playing video games, swimming, skating, watching Netflix, and listening to music.
“With humbleness, diligence, persistence, dedication and hard work, I will persevere.”
I’ve been involved in SWAT for about 2 years because I want to make a difference. I want to save lives by promoting tobacco education and how it’s not good for you and takes hundreds of thousands of lives each year. One of my favorite SWAT moments was when my SWAT chapter performed at the downtown Jacksonville Martin Luther King Jr. parade. We passed out information on tobacco and encouraged people to quit.
“Follow your arrow” – Kacey Musgraves
Hey! My name is Ashley Thompson and I am a sophomore at Miami Palmetto Senior High School in Miami-Dade County. I love my cat and dog, and, other than SWAT, some of my hobbies include working to reduce pollution in the environment. In addition, I enjoy healthy eating and strive to live a fit lifestyle. I am beyond excited to be a part of the YAB and cannot wait to see what we achieve!
“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present” – Bill Keane
Hello, I’m Elizabeth Sterling! I would describe myself as a passionate, caring and adventurous person. With that said, my journey with SWAT began at the age of 14, and it has opened my eyes to see the great impact youth has on our society. I took that motivation to begin a campaign in my county chapter that challenges Walgreens’ power wall. The remarkable accomplishments of my county chapter have driven me to be invested in the matters that are important to me. Currently, I am president of the St. Lucie County chapter and find joy in watching our chapter grow. In my personal time, I enjoy watching my favorite shows alongside my pet, Charlie. In addition to that, accessibility to the beach offers me many fun times with family and friends.
“With great power comes great responsibility” – from the movie Spider-Man
I am in my senior year at Okeechobee High School. I have been a part of my high school’s SWAT chapter since my freshman year and am currently the president. I have been involved in several major tobacco use prevention activities over the past 3 years. This includes receiving a proclamation from the Mayor of Okeechobee for Tobacco Free Florida week and a proclamation from the Board of County Commissioners for Okeechobee County for Through with Chew week. My SWAT involvement is also comprised of several events including my school’s Club Rush, the city’s Health and Safety Expo, and the Back to School Expo. I also attended the SWAT retreat at Lake Yale last summer. I am determined to take what I have learned over the last few years to help end the use of tobacco products and redefine what it means to be cool.
“Great achievements are the results of great expectations. You will see it happen only when you believe it will happen.” – Charles Dickens
I’m 14 years old and I have been a member of SWAT for 4 years. I served 2 years on the leadership committee and have been a member of YAB for half a year. I’m from Holmes County, and I’m in the 9th Grade.
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” – Oscar Wilde
I have been in SWAT for 2 ½ years. I joined SWAT because I believe that educating and bringing forth awareness can change a person’s life. Being a part of SWAT has allowed me to really help others and exceed personal growth. Outside of school and SWAT, I enjoy reading, traveling, writing, exercising, playing competitive sports, gardening, and playing with my pup, Jack. I am very interested in global development, agronomy, biotechnology, oceanography, as well as hydrology. I simply enjoy learning new things.
“I think there will be more smiles when the smoke clears.” – Shaun Alexander
Hi, my name is Ryan. I am from Volusia County (REGION 2!) and this is my second year on the YAB. As I child, I grew up with cigarettes indirectly. My father, other family members, and friends have gotten attracted to cigarettes and e-cigarettes. I have witnessed what the effects can do firsthand, as my aunt unfortunately just passed away from lung cancer. That’s why I want to use all the power I have to get rid of smoking and put the Big Tobacco companies out of business! We are truly tobacco’s BIGGEST nightmare!
Currently, I am a sophomore at James Madison Preparatory High School in Madison County. The reason I joined was that I wanted to get involved in extracurriculars and also because I support SWAT’s message and ultimate goal. To me, SWAT is a program that grants the ability to not only get involved in your community but to change it. In my time away from SWAT, I enjoy reading classics, studying languages, and identifying local plants. As of recently, I have taken an interest in physics and maintaining a safe and clean environment.
“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs.
My journey in SWAT began my freshman year when a teacher of mine told me and some friends what SWAT was, and that was just the beginning. From there, I attended every meeting and every event we have hosted or assisted with. SWAT became my second family, so I decided to take it another step up and join the leadership committee. Not too long after that, I decided that I wanted to run for the YAB. Joining SWAT was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made.
“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, ” plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
The reason I am in SWAT is to educate this generation about Big Tobacco’s strategy to get them addicted to nicotine. Big Tobacco targets my peers and the next generation by having advertisements that make smoking or vaping appear to be safe. Studies show that children exposed to secondhand smoke from cigarettes and/or vapes are more likely to have health problems. As a child, I watched my grandfather smoke, and now he is being challenged with colon cancer and I watch as he deals with cancer-related health challenges in the future. When I learned that the chemicals in tobacco products cause harmful health problems, it made me want to put a stop to Big Tobacco companies. These are the reasons why I joined SWAT! I plan to spread the word that I am not Big Tobacco’s Lab Rat!
“Be the person you needed when you were younger.” – Ayesha Siddiqu
I joined SWAT because children are the future, and I want to make the next generation tobacco- free. That way, children don’t have to grow up without their aunts, uncles, grandparents, parents, or older siblings. Since I know firsthand how hard it can be to lose a loved one to a smoking-related illness, I don’t want anyone else to go through that. My biggest goal in SWAT is to just make a change, and I am ready for the challenges and memories of being on this year’s YAB.
“Behold the turtle. He makes progress only when he sticks his neck out.” –James Bryant Conant
This is my third year in SWAT. I joined SWAT after losing my grandma to cancer. I’ve always wanted to change the world for the better, but I just never knew how. Being in SWAT helped me realize I want to create a tobacco-free future. Thanks to my amazing advisor (Hi Mrs. McCalligan!), my awesome coordinator (Hey Kayla!), and my passion for the cause, I fell in love with SWAT. I can’t wait to give as much to SWAT as it’s given to me.
“Leadership is taking responsibility while others are making excuses” – John Maxwell
My name is Shari Troy and I have been in SWAT for four years, and as president of our chapter for three. I am a junior at Hamilton County High School. My experience with SWAT has been amazing these past few years, and I consider the people in my chapter my family. I plan to make a difference in my community before I graduate, no matter how big or small that difference may be. Outside of SWAT, I am a teacher’s assistant and in the color guard with the marching band. I plan on going to culinary school once I am out of high school so that I can continue to do the things I love.
“Whenever you get down just think success, success, success and your happy feelings will start to express.” – Kamya Williams
One reason I am in SWAT is because I love to show Big Tobacco companies that we are not going to be their lab rats and let them destroy people’s lives. My grandma got addicted to cigarettes and later had major health problems, including having part of her stomach removed. This was very eye-opening to me, which made me want to fight even more against Big Tobacco companies. By being a part of SWAT and the YAB, I can help educate people about the dangers of tobacco use and possibly prevent them from using. Big Tobacco is hurting many families, especially health-wise, and they need to be stopped. So, I am proud to be anti-Big Tobacco companies and tobacco-free.
“The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Hello, my name is Ioana Lungescu. The reason I joined SWAT was to become more aware about the decisions everyone around me seemed to be making haphazardly – life-altering, brain-changing decisions. But SWAT became more of a gift the further involved I got. I was able to get my voice out, to see adults and community leaders frown at the weight of my words. By becoming a youth activist, three other involved members and I were able to reform Broward County School Board policy. We presented to parents, teachers, and, most importantly, students (the future parents and teachers), and current decision-makers. While my mission in SWAT — to cure the epidemic of teenage smoking/vaping — has just begun, my ideas, message, and voice have only grown stronger amid the strength and support of my peers.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy
My Name is Nicholas Martinez. The reason I joined the YAB is because I know the truth about Big Tobacco and a lot of Florida’s youth does not, and I want them to know the truth as well. By becoming a National Youth Ambassador for the CTFK and working on the local Miami-Dade E-cig campaign E-(liminate)Cigs, SWAT has helped me learn the facts about Big Tobacco and has prepared me enough to spread these facts like wildfire in my school, community, and nationwide. It is a pleasure and honor to serve you in the YAB. I represent Florida’s youth, I am here to work for you, and to make real change happen for you! We will make history while making Big Tobacco a thing of the past!
“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” –Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh)
The indispensable SWAT initiative in Florida tasks itself every day with inspiring others to express themselves in an effort to end the wide use of tobacco in society, and especially in today’s youth. As a proud youth advocate, I have channeled my efforts in raising awareness and advocating against Big Tobacco’s destructive aggressors. Being a proud Cuban myself, I have first-hand experience in witnessing Big Tobacco’s convincing campaigns, which have always been associated with elitist status for cigar smokers of all ages and genders. Putting these destructive qualities in perspective, I have focused on educating young adults to look out for themselves and each other when they witness the operation of these devices. Just recently, I was featured on Beacon Television along with members of my club, presenting to the superintendent possible solutions to counter the rapidly growing issue among teen use of electronic nicotine delivery systems and tobacco use. I am truly proud to be part of this movement, as I feel that we are all so genuinely dedicated to effecting change and cultivating a sense of unity, given such an important social opportunity. Together, these organizations, along with many important others,have made me more than prepared to fight Big Tobacco. Please join the effort to make a difference and save lives!
“If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
I joined SWAT for the sole reason of wanting to help my schoolmates. That goal soon sprouted into me wanting to stop Big Tobacco from using our generation for money. Through SWAT, I soon realized that tobacco was becoming a major problem in this generation and that I needed to help the cause. I became the Vice President, and Treasurer, of my school’s SWAT club and an active member of the Bay County Leadership Team in order to help this cause. I was honored when I was elected into YAB and I am ecstatic to be able to continue my efforts.
“You were born with the ability to change someone’s life—don’t ever waste it.” —Dale Partridge
Since I was in elementary school I have always wanted to make a difference in the world. Since the age of 10 I’ve always been doing leadership activities. This includes being the president of the Kiwanis in sixth grade, being in citizenship in seventh grade, and being in SWAT in eighth grade. Since I started SWAT I have had many opportunities such as being on the news, making a difference in my school, and becoming a YAB member. I am so excited to be a YAB member and learn new things and new ways to be a leader.
This is my fourth year in SWAT. I joined SWAT after losing my grandma to cancer. I’ve always wanted to change the world for the better, but I just never knew how. Being in SWAT helped me realize I want to create a tobacco-free future. Thanks to my amazing first advisor (Hi Mrs. McCalligan!), my awesome first coordinator (Hey Kayla!), all the other dedicated adults who have helped me along the way, and my passion for the cause, I fell in love with SWAT. I can’t wait to give as much to SWAT as it’s given to me.
“The enthusiastic person will find ways around any setbacks and while they may fall down they are quick to stand up again.”- Catherine Pulsifer.
My name is Amaris Mack. I am 13 years old! I participate in competitive cheer, gymnastics and soccer. I want to attend Howard University! (Go Bisons !) I want to become a dental hygienist, and potentially own my own business on the side. I love cooking and playing with my dogs when I have spare time.
“The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has been before.” – Albert Einstein.
I have been part of SWAT for a year now and this is my first year on YAB. Besides SWAT I also partake in many clubs at school such as NHS, Beta, MAT, Key Club, and Class of 2021 Steering. The majority of my time is spent working or gathering community hours because I find it is the most useful way to use up my time.
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” -Alan Kay
Starting SWAT only a year and a half ago, my experience with the organization has been relatively new. However, the objectives and values of SWAT closely match the journey of my life. As an explorer in science and believer in God, I continuously spend time expanding my knowledge of the world and serving the community, specifically by influencing people to make logical and informed decisions about themselves and the world. The recent vaping epidemic in schools across the United States with severe health consequences in my community, along with the realization of the deep-rooted systematic problem of tobacco products initiated my effort to spread awareness and educate my peers about the dangers of tobacco products and industries. SWAT stood as an amazing platform for my friends and I to speak to community leaders and legislators, and as a member of the YAB, I can reach out to more people than I have ever imagined before. Outside of SWAT, I enjoy coding in R and playing hours upon hours of tennis with my friends.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey
As a child I was unaware of the effects tobacco had on my environment, and the people around me. My family consisted of very few smokers, but there was one I was around constantly, my grandfather. One day he decided it was time to quit, and I began to do some research. I found out about the Big Tobacco companies and their harmful marketing tactics. This led me to join SWAT and his courage caused me to join several other clubs, including student government, student council, etc. I’ve been a part of SWAT for a year now, and I’m excited to continue to grow and advocate with the Youth Advocacy Board.
Hey, I’m Saesha Wani! I am currently a sophomore in the SWAT chapter at José Martí MAST Academy in Miami-Dade County! I got involved in SWAT about a year ago, when it was first introduced at my school. I joined because I wanted to take action and work towards the ultimate goal of creating a tobacco-free future. Tobacco has affected my life as big tobacco continues to target many of my family members and friends. Therefore, I was so excited to join a group of students with similar interests and together advocate for tobacco control. Since then, Students Working Against Tobacco has been a big part of my life. SWAT has given me the opportunity to not only get involved in my school, but also make a difference in my community! After being involved in my school’s SWAT chapter for a year, I decided I wanted to take my journey with SWAT a step further and run for the YAB. This is my first year on the YAB and I am ready to make our goals of a tobacco free future a reality and truly be Big Tobacco’s biggest nightmare. Outside of SWAT, I am part of Student Council and Key Club. I enjoy Figure Skating, and I am always trying to push myself to overcome obstacles and try new things!
“You must do the thing which you think you cannot.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
My name is Rachel Prempeh and I’ve been in SWAT for 1 year. I joined SWAT because I saw it as a great organization that would allow me to be around others who shared the same mindset when standing against Big Tobacco. So far, I’ve really enjoyed being a part of it and being surrounded by new and old friends where we’re able to work together and spread the word in hopes of making a difference. Aside from being involved in SWAT, I’m also the Junior Vice President of the National Honor Society, a new Ambassador for the campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, an active member in many academic clubs, and an avid reader. There’s no such thing as reading too many books so get to it!
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. IT DOES.” – William James
Being a SWAT member for two years has not only encouraged me but also boosted my confidence as a person, knowing that I am using my skills and voice for the right reasons. Seeing friends of mine let tobacco take over their life is a big reason why I am no longer sitting around, because change won’t happen unless you let it. I am 17 years old and moving on to my senior year in high school. This is my first year as a YAB member and I also recently became a youth ambassador for Tobacco-Free Kids. What I do outside of SWAT, I am a competitive dancer and have been for 10 years.
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney
I have been in SWAT for a little over four years. I became involved because I have seen firsthand the dangerous effects of tobacco products. Some of my favorite SWAT moments would include preparing for our county’s Color Run and speaking to the school board as well as my peers about our message.
I am involved in SWAT because I see it as a way to help future generations. I have seen and learned about how tobacco can negatively affect our health, economy, environment, and more. I am passionate about making sure that our generation is the one that ends smoking, and that future generations won’t have to go through the damage that past generations had to go through. I have been a member of SWAT for three years, from 7th grade to now. My favorite SWAT memory is when I had the chance to speak with state lawmakers about tobacco prevention. Not only was it very exciting for me, but it showed me how far SWAT can take me. It was also a great bonding experience for me and all the other SWAT members who spoke with me. Outside of school and SWAT, I love to code and practice martial arts. I am also involved in my school as a class officer and the Model United Nations team.
Growing up, tobacco was a normal product used in my family. But as I got older, the effects of tobacco were starting to take effect, and I didn’t want to let Big Tobacco win a war I didn’t know had started. SWAT was there for me and gave me lots of opportunities and encouraged me to take action. I have been an active member of SWAT for the past three years. Recently, I was given the opportunity to speak to legislators at an open legislation meeting in Tallahassee. The trip was a great opportunity for me to build my character and confidence, and to learn new ways to effectively communicate with my peers and legislators. As my idol Barack Obama once said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Outside of SWAT, I am the class president for the freshman class at Osceola High School, and an All-American cheerleader in the OHS JV cheer squad and Sportsrock All-Star Elite team. When I’m not participating in these activities, I am spending time with my dogs and family.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
I have been in SWAT since 6th grade. It started with my teacher telling me she wanted me in the club and slowly, but surely, I got very involved. I hated public speaking, but my school SWAT advisor and my regional advisor, Ms. Kristina, helped me work through this fear. So, in 7th grade, I talked to my city council about passing a resolution to place tobacco products behind the counter, and they passed it. I was really proud after that moment, and I kept working in SWAT. I finally worked up my courage to run for YAB, which I got. I’m very proud to be a part of this amazing organization.
“Great achievements are the results of great expectations. You will see it happen only when you believe it will happen.” – Charles Dickens
“The difference in winning and losing is often not quitting” – Walt Disney
My name is Jaeden Boatner and I am from Holmes County. To me, SWAT is more than an organization that promotes tobacco education, it is an amazing group of youth and adults who work together for the greater good! I started SWAT at my school in 5th grade, after serving two years on the leadership committee. I joined the YAB because I was bored, and I am now going on my third term! Other than SWAT, I am in clubs such as JROTC and my high school drama and chorus department. I am 15 years old and starting my 10th grade. This year, I am hoping to get Tobacco 21 implemented in my area and work to create the first tobacco-free generation!
“Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope, where there is darkness, only light, and where there’s sadness, rejoice. Thanks for the heads up!
The reason I am in SWAT and on the YAB is because one day I want to change the world. By doing SWAT and YAB, I’m already changing my state with my fellow YAB members. SWAT has changed my life in the best way possible as it has given me great public speaking skills, leadership skills, and has also given me the opportunity to meet some of the best people on this planet, my fellow YAB members. I have been in SWAT for three years and this is my second year on the YAB. I attend Challenger K8 in Hernando County, and without my supportive SWAT members in my school, I would have never been able to make it this far.
My name is Hännah Ford, and I am a senior at Sarasota Military Academy in Sarasota, FL. I have been a member of SWAT for 7 years now and a YABber for 2. Participating in events such as beach & park cleanups, talks with local and state politicians, and Kick Butts Day have been some of my highlights. I was in our chapter leadership program for 3 years as vice president at the Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club SWAT, and as social media coordinator for 2 years in the county-wide group. SWAT has let me voice my opinion on tobacco-related issues (such as tobacco free campuses) and has given me a platform to share the Tobacco Industry’s point of sale tactics with others. Tobacco prevention hits home because harmful usage has caused the deaths of several of my family members and friends, while also diminishing relationships. My SWAT purpose is to assist youth in strengthening their knowledge on the issues at hand (flavored products, #NotALabRat, etc.), to save the connections of those impacted by the use of tobacco. Outside of my work in SWAT, I share a passion for business and marketing strategies and consider myself a young entrepreneur. Being a part of the YAB allows me to use my strong suits and creative processing to tackle problems, preventing others from becoming one.
“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” – Winnie the Pooh
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Direct Contact: Florida Department of Health
Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida4052 Bald Cypress Way, Bin C-23Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1743
[email protected] »Phone: (850) 245-4144