The Drug Education For Youth (DEFY) program is a year-long, two-phased substance abuse prevention and comprehensive life skills program designed for 9-12 year olds.
DEFY begins with a five-day residential or eight-day non-residential leadership program called Phase I that is held during the summer.
During Phase I, youth receive education on substance abuse prevention, social skills, self-management skills, and fitness. A science-based curriculum provides the platform that helps youth work through goal setting, leadership and teamwork, and self-esteem enhancement.
"The DEFY summer leadership program provides our youth an opportunity to receive valuable lifelong skills." said Timm Bentley, DEFY program manager. "Parents must understand the DEFY program requires a year-long commitment to allow for the full benefit to their children."
Phase II comes next and continues throughout the school year. During Phase II, youth meet with the adult volunteers for mentoring and additional life skills training. Life skills presented during this phase include conflict resolution, studying skills, leadership, community service, and resistance skills refresher training.
"Phase II provides most of the important mentoring," said Maria Belin, local program coordinator (LPC) for the DEFY program sponsored by Commander, Fleet Activities Okinawa.
Participating youth recognize the importance of Phase II. "You don't want to lose your knowledge and reasons for saying no," said Mauryn, a junior staff member at the Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif., DEFY program.
Two recent studies found that substance abuse is higher in children of deployed parents. "DEFY takes a burden off people that are forward deployed because they're not worrying about their kids making the wrong choices or getting involved in stuff they don't need to be getting involved in," said retired Chief Hospital Corpsman Terry Morocco, former local program coordinator DEFY program at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twenty-nine Palms.
Local programs will begin advertising for adult volunteers soon. Commands are encouraged, as operational tempo provides, to allow command personnel to participate. In addition to the positive work DEFY does for our Navy families, volunteers learn new skills such as instructing, arranging logistics, coordinating administrative tasks, and managing program operations, all skills that are directly transferrable to their Navy jobs. In short, the command gets back a better person, according to Bentley.
Families with 9-12 year olds are highly encouraged to enroll youth in local programs. A recent report on a program evaluation of DEFY showed that approximately 75 percent of parents surveyed saw improved youth life skill development and nearly 67 percent saw improvement in their child's ability to avoid substance abuse and negative behaviors.
"The DEFY program was a strong pillar that reinforced the values that we worked to instill in our son Joshua," said retired Cmdr. Derek Ross, former chaplain with Fleet Activities Okinawa. "It provided him with the foundation to forge positive experiences of teamwork and social responsibility that is so often lacking in our youth today."
Look for advertisements for local DEFY programs and sign up today, or call (901) 874-3300 to locate a program near you.