JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) -- Commander, Navy Region Southeast kicked-off its annual Drug Education for Youth (DEFY) summer camp retreat at the YMCA’s Camp Winona in DeLeon Springs, Florida, Aug. 5.
DEFY is a 21st Century Sailor initiative established under Drug Detection and Deterrence to empower today’s military youth to build positive, healthy lifestyles as successful, drug-free individuals.
Master Chief Aviation Maintenance Administrationman Shalonda Jackson, a parent of a camp attendee, said her daughter has participated in the DEFY program for three years and would like to become a junior mentor when she gets older.
“It’s all about independence, you know? This teaches them how to do things on their own, make their own decisions, and also make friends,” said Jackson.
According to the Navy Personnel Command Website, DEFY is a two-phase program to help enhance life for military personnel and their families by enhancing youth through drug education, leadership, character building, positive role-model mentoring, and community outreach.
Chief Naval Aircrewman (Operator) Ronel Thomas, DEFY program coordinator, said his team’s goal is to teach and sharpen skills of young individuals, to help improve self-confidence and to provide quality training in a relaxed environment.
“The youth absolutely love participating in our activities, and so do the staff,” said Thomas.
Some of the activities youth participated in during summer camp were low- and high-rope obstacle courses, archery, rifling, team-building exercises, paddle boarding, and swimming.
The DEFY program also allows junior mentors, ages 13-18, to display leadership principals taught in the program by helping mentor the younger participants.
Thomas said, “For some of our youth, these activities are their first time being in a leadership role or in a situation where they have to compromise to reach a solution.”
Retired Senior Chief Aviation Support Equipment Technician Antoinette Roberson, another parent of a camp attendee, said the DEFY program is not only about drugs and encourages attendance for other reasons.
“Going to the camp alone, they build communication skills and a variety of skills they can utilize throughout the whole year,” said Roberson.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Foor, a DEFY Mentor joined DEFY because drug abuse has personally impacted his own family.
“Being able to share with and teach these children lessons and values that were taught to me by my mentors is important,” Foor said.
DEFY is designed to help reduce risk factors, such as substance abuse and crime and gang involvement, with today’s youth to help strengthen resiliency to negative influences - overall helping Navy and Marine Corps members improve combat readiness.
Jackson said she thinks the camp is awesome because it teaches kids how to help their peers who aren’t a part of the camp by giving them ways to deal with a problem and find a solution.
For more information about the DEFY program, and how to become involved in the program contact the DEFY program office at (901) 874-3300 or go to www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/support/21st_Century_Sailor/DDD/DEFY/Pages.
For more news from Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, visit www.navy.mil/local/comnavairlant/.