By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anastasia Puscian, NMCSD Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO – For the past 11 years Naval Medical Center San Diego has facilitated the Drug Education For Youth (DEFY) program to educate youth about the dangers of drugs while developing important character and leadership skills through positive role modeling and community outreach.
This year NMCSD had 12 active duty staff members volunteer to mentor and educate the 42 kids enrolled in NMCSD’s DEFY program.
“During the camp I realized the impact it has on the kids,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Mirna Morales, a five year NMCSD DEFY mentor and volunteer. “I have kids and parents who to this day still let me know how our job helped their child's confidence and ability to make the right decisions when they were exposed to drugs. It's rewarding to know our job helps shape their future.”
DEFY focuses on building youth’s self-image and setting goals, while providing kids with the tools they need to resist drugs, gangs and alcohol. DEFY stresses interpersonal relations, emphasizes leadership and teamwork, and raises awareness of the harmful effects of alcohol, and other drugs, as well as the dangers of peer pressure to join gangs. The program centers on creating positive experiences so that kids will choose healthy alternatives instead of substance abuse and gang involvement.
"Our son will start his first year of junior high school soon, so when we learned about DEFY we felt it would be a great opportunity to help him make the transition into a new school and a new peer group," said Chief Mass Communication Specialist Katherine Strom, DEFY parent.
DEFY is a two-phase program, phase one begins in the summer with either a five-day or eight day non-residential camp. Kids enjoy an entire camp experience with such activities as hiking and swimming while learning how to deal with conflicts, peer pressure and situations they will encounter where an important decision will need to be made. After the kids graduate from camp they enter phase two where they are placed in youth organizations that help them obtain their goals with a year of mentorship.
"The counselors and mentors were all good; they taught us about staying away from drugs,” said Eric Sanchez, DEFY participant. “We would do skits in groups about what can happen to people that do drugs and how to deal with situations when someone tries to talk you into doing drugs.”
During phase two of the program, the kids meet on a monthly basis and enjoy activities such as hiking, kayaking, museum visits, community service such as cleaning the beach or volunteering at the animal shelter while mentors teach lessons based on specific curriculum for each month.
DEFY was initially developed in 1993 by the Navy’s Drug Demand Reduction Task Force to fully integrate with the President’s National Drug Control Strategy. The program is sponsored by local commands and is devoted to youth ages 9-12 from military families.
Currently the Navy and Marine Corps DEFY program has a total of 52 locations worldwide with five locations added this year. The Air Force also has a DEFY program with 19 locations worldwide.
“I would be remiss if I did not address how impressed I am with the NMCSD Sailors that volunteer for this program,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Taryn Laube, NMCSD DEFY program coordinator. “I am extremely humbled and honored to work with such a dedicated and caring team. They selflessly work above and beyond for this program, mostly on their own time. I couldn't be prouder to be involved with DEFY.”
For more information on Naval Medical Center San Diego or the Drug Education and Youth program visit:https://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd/Pages/default.aspxhttp://www.donhq.navy.mil/defy