Anti-drug program for youth at Yokosuka gets renewed support
Stars and Stripes August 15, 2006
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Peer pressure as defined by 10-year old Sam Bautista: “It’s when people offer you something to smoke or sniff and say, ‘Use this, you’ll be popular,’ and you want to be popular but you know it’s wrong.”
It’s when your friends call your brother “wack” and tell you not to play with him anymore, said Asia Thibodeaux.
Conversations like this almost were cut short this year at Yokosuka Naval Base when the DEFY program — Drug Education for Youth — had a close brush with cancellation. It wasn’t a shortage of money, it was mentors, said DEFY program coordinator Petty Officer 1st Class Frederico Calaguas Jr.
“We didn’t get enough people until we sent around a note saying that it was going to be canceled,” he said. “Without mentors we can’t have kids. We were signing kids up the day the camp started.”
DEFY works in two phases, starting with a 10-day camp for kids ages 9-12. They’re taught drug awareness, leadership skills, team building and conflict-resolution through classroom work and fun activities such as swimming and dodgeball. A visit to the Navy brig this week is to reinforce where drugs can lead, said DEFY operations manager Petty Officer 2nd Class Earl Davis.
After the camp ends Wednesday, the second phase kicks in: Mentors will continue to meet with campers one Saturday a month for an entire year. The program costs about $320 per child, but U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka is picking up the tab, Davis said.
DEFY calls for a small ratio of mentors to students to promote trust and bonding. Usually two mentors are assigned to each child as active-duty schedules are difficult to work around.
But mentoring is “not just a bullet on your evaluation,” Davis said. It requires a certain level of commitment.
“It’s not like collecting a paycheck and leaving,” Davis said. “You have to be willing to grow with that child.”
Still, it’s not hard to find the time if you care to, said Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Metz. He mentored with DEFY in Sigonella, Italy, and is doing it again at Yokosuka.
“The kids are happy to see us; their parents don’t have to pull them out of the car,” Metz said. “I think we’re getting to them … and if you can get to just one kid, then your job is done.”
For more information on DEFY Yokosuka, e-mail email@example.com.