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Marine Sgt. Elizabeth Lopez is the program coordinator for the newly launched DEFY program at Iwakuni.

Marine Sgt. Elizabeth Lopez is the program coordinator for the newly launched DEFY program at Iwakuni. (Juliana Gittler / S&S)

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — The Drug Education For Youth program, which aims to help children in military families develop positive and healthy life skills away from drugs, returns to Iwakuni this year after a six-year hiatus.

The program differs from the 10-week school classroom-based DARE program — Drug Abuse Resistance Education — in that it uses volunteer community mentors and lasts for a year, said the new DEFY coordinator, Sgt. Elizabeth Lopez.

Iwakuni had a DEFY program in the past but it died out in 2000. Base leaders decided to relaunch it this year, starting with a weeklong summer camp scheduled for July.

The program brings volunteer mentors to work with children aged 9-12 at the camp and then throughout the year, during monthly events including field trips and meetings. “If the kids need help with something they can call the mentor, if they need to talk or help with their homework,” Lopez said.

The summer camp will run July 17-21 at Tokuji, a Japanese camp two hours from Iwakuni. There, with classroom training, organizers and mentors will lead participants on hikes, an adventure course, trust games and team-building exercises.

Components include dealing with peer pressure, identifying positive qualities and strengths and weaknesses and of course avoiding drugs, alcohol and tobacco. There’s even a physical fitness component.

“That’s definitely a big part of it,” Lopez said. “But it’s definitely not like Marine Corps PT.”

After completing DEFY, kids can return as junior mentors to the next group. About 15 students had signed up by last week. The program can accommodate 40. Lopez said.

Misawa aims to make room for 30 DEFY applicants

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Applicants are currently being accepted at Misawa for DEFY.

Thirty kids between the ages of 9 and 12 who will be going into the fourth, fifth or sixth grade are eligible to apply.

Summer camp will be held July 23-31.

Participants need to commit to the program for one year or be making a permanent-change-in-station move to a location with a DEFY program.

Applications can be found at www.hq.navy.mil/defy and dropped off to Sherri Light at Bldg. 1025, across from Misawa International Tours and Travel.

For more information, e-mail Sherri Light at MABDefy2006@yahoo.com or call her at DSN 226-6023 or contact Ashley Winslow at (0176) 57-7903.

What it takes to be a mentor

DEFY relies on volunteer mentors to encourage kids and lead programs.

Mentors are screened and undergo background checks.

Active-duty mentors must be 18 years and older; other community members must be 21. They receive a training class before the camp.

To mentor or to learn more about DEFY, contact Sgt. Elizabeth Lopez or Lance Cpl. Michael Orozco at DSN 253-4929 or e-mail Lopez at elizabeth.a.lopez1@USMC.mil. Cpl. Edward Guevara Jr. can also be reached at DSN 253-5551.

— Stars and Stripes

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