MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Substance abuse is an issue the military takes seriously, and given recent reports of increases in drug use in the U. S., the Drug Education for Youth Program seeks to prevent drug addiction before it starts by educating children.
Through the DEFY, a Department of Defense program, installation personnel aim to reduce drug use, enhance family readiness and promote mission accomplishment, said Chief Terry Morocco, the Combat Center’s DEFY program director. “It gives Marines and sailors a peace of mind.”
The DEFY program and the DoD seeks to “produce nine to 12 year olds with character, leadership, and confidence so they are equipped to engage in positive, healthy lifestyles as drug-free citizens and have the necessary skills to be successful in their lives,” according to the mission statement.
The ages of nine through 12 are the most impressionable years for children, Morocco said. “This is where we can make the greatest impact on the youth of tomorrow.”
The program consists of two phases. The first is a week-long camp which teaches the children life lessons and anti-drug information. The second phase consists of monthly events which incorporate the lessons learned in phase one.
This year’s week-long camp will be held at Camp Fox, in San Diego from July 25-30. There, children will learn to solve conflicts, how to identify good role models, set goals, build friendships, team-building, self-confidence and physical fitness.
The children will explore hobbies and activities that provide positive creative outlets children can turn to as an alternative for substance abuse, Morocco said.
“All three of my kids have gone through the program and continue to be mentors in the program.”
The children also learn about drugs and the negative effects it has on users’ lives and families.
“This program helps children not give in to peer pressure,” Morocco said.
Phase two incorporates and reviews the lessons learned at Camp Fox throughout the year, Morocco said. According to the information available on the DEFY website, the program and participation is free to eligable families. Each child will receive a workbook, T-shirt, ball cap, backpack and two meals and snacks per day.
A mentorship program is also available for those wishing to lend a hand. Children above the age of 13 who have attended the program may become junior mentors. Adults must first fill out an online application and submit to a background screening, Morocco said.
Working with this program has become one of his passions, Morocco said. “I’ve seen a positive impact on my own children and in the community,” he said.
For more information on the DEFY program, visit http://www.donhq.navy.mil/defy or call, 830-2626.