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SWAT > News and Events > Phoenix Tour > Suwannee Democrat

Suwannee County SWAT steps out into North Florida

By Janet Schrader
Democrat Reporter

Friday, July 9, 2004

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Five Suwannee County SWAT members (Students Working Against Tobacco) have moved their campaign out of Suwannee Countyinto North Florida. Kevin Pate, brother Steven Pate, Franklin Williams, Joy Beth McIntosh, Steven Schneitman Jr. and his wife Jenna Schneitman took their campaign on a trip through 16 counties to spread their message.

“It goes much deeper than don’t smoke, it’s bad,” the youngest member of this group Steven Pate said, “what they don’t know is that Big Tobacco companies are manipulating them.”. That’s the message SWAT tries to get out to teens. “The tobacco industry has manipulated their advertising to target youth,” Schneitman said. “I try to tell them they’re killing themselves and paying for the priviledge,” Kevin Pate said.

Steven Pate was a fountain of anti-tobacco factoids. “4.9 millino people die each year from tobacco, one person every eight seconds,” Steven Pate said. “The tobacco companies spend $1 million an hour on advertising.”

Schneitman, out of high school and in college, is the Suwanne chapter of SWAT’s coordinator and chaperone for the tour. He said he joined SWAT to look good on his record.

“I joined for my college resume, but when I heard the message, it made me think more globally and about ways to make the word a better place.” Schneitman said.

The SWAT members took their beliefs to the street. Their trip dubbed Project Phoenix, started on June 6 in Panama City. The traveled to Tallahassee, passing out hand-outs and meeting SWAT members along the way. They spoke to a representative from WCTV then moved on to Taylor County where they stood with posters on SR 19. After Taylor County they moved into Lafayette County where they spoke to the Mayo Free Press.

They stopped back in Live Oak to drop off Williams. He had to leave for Marine Corps boot camp. After stocking up in Live Oak, they moved on to Hamilton County, Levy County, and then Alachua. In Gainesville they held up signs for an hour at a busy intersection. They got honked at, cursed at and offered a smoke. The got interviewed by the Gainesville Sun.

After Gainesville, they moved on to Columbia County where they got live radio station coverage on 94.3 “The Mix”. They went through Starke to Daytona Beach. In Daytona they met with a representative of the News Journal.

The trip was planned to re-ignite the declining interest in the SWAT program. The money gained from the original tobacco settlements is about gone and there have been many budget cuts in state funding for youth tobacco prevention programs according to Schneitman.

“in the beginning the kids were all fired up. I think we re-ignited the flame because the spark had died out,” Schneitman said of their trip. We planned a lot before hand, but we had to adapt to our different situations,” McIntosh Said. The group filmed the trip. Their cinematographer was another Suwannee High grad, Brian Cody. The film was one of the most important results of the trip. The students plan to make good use of it.

“We filmed the trip to create a guide on how to be an advocate—not just for SWAT, but for anything you feel strongly about,” Kevin Pate said. “We can’t send everybody on a trip, but we can send a film to all SWAT reps.

“We have the information and the understanding of what it means to be an advocate” Schneitman says. “The definition of an advocate is someone who believes in something enough to fight for it. We showed in the video, it doesn’t take a lot of money to do this.”