CRESTVIEW — Olivia Rodriguez's determination to nip her peers' experimentation with tobacco in the bud comes from a lifelong effort to get family members to kick the habit.
"I have a family who smokes," the Crestview High School senior said. "When I was little, I'd ask them to stop for me. They'd quit for a little while, but then they'd say, 'Oh, it's so hard' and start again."
Olivia didn't want to see fellow Bulldogs become similarly addicted, and in 10th grade joined the school's Students Working Against Tobacco, or S.W.A.T., club.
From beach clean-ups to poster making, the group makes itself known on campus, but, Olivia said, it's often the one-on-one peer communication that has the most impact.
For her efforts, the teenager has been appointed to the statewide Students Working Against Tobacco Youth Advocacy Board.
The board helps the statewide S.W.A.T. organization determine the direction and scope of its youth tobacco prevention efforts under the state Department of Health's Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida.
Listen to the little voice
Just getting student smokers to think about what they're doing, and the potentially deadly future consequences, is important, she said.
"I know we have a lot of kids who smoke who don't admit it," Olivia said. "When I see them doing it, I say, 'Hey, whatcha got there?'"
If a student considers smoking, Olivia suggests he or she listen to the little voice inside.
"I tell them I wouldn't do something I know I would regret," she said. "If you're thinking of doing something you might have even the teeniest, tiniest little regret about, don't even try it."
Applying for a position on the board "was a little nerve-wracking," Olivia said. She had to prepare a detailed, multi-page application, and then interview before the entire 14-member board.
As a member, she attends regional meetings and statewide telephone conferences, learning about upcoming anti-smoking campaigns and recommending future outreach to her peers.
Between her state office and her Crestview High S.W.A.T. efforts, Olivia keeps busy.
"It's worth it, though," she said. "If one kid doesn't start (smoking), I'm happy."