By Timm Bentley
Program manager, Drug Education For Youth
Naval Air Station Jackson-ville is actively soliciting enthusiastic, fun-loving, positive adult role models to serve as mentors for its yearlong Drug Education for Youth (DEFY) program.
DEFY is a substance abuse prevention and comprehensive life skills program specifically designed for 9-12 year old Navy dependents.
DEFY deters "at-risk" behaviors by giving children the tools they need to resist drugs and develop positive social skills. A key component of DEFY is mentoring - and positive adult role models are key to the success of that component.
NAS Jacksonville will kick off its DEFY program this coming summer and is in need of volunteers to fill the role of DEFY mentor. Volunteers must be over the age of 18, affiliated with the Department of Defense, and approved by the command.
Volunteers are expected to participate for the entire year starting with an intensive summer 2017 component (Phase I), in addition to monthly events throughout the school year (Phase II).
Phase I is structured in a five-day residential or eight-day non-residential format. Phase I includes educational trips, fitness activities, classroom learning, and the President's Fitness Challenge.
Residential programs require volunteers to remain with the youth throughout the phase, sometimes in summer camp-like conditions.
Phase II reinforces the concepts and training delivered in Phase I, usually one Saturday each month, although local program schedules vary.
During Phase II, mentors and staff provide positive support during group mentoring sessions and interactive workshops that provide life skills training, team building, and leadership training.
"Participating as an adult mentor is no vacation," said LaNorfeia Parker, deputy director of the Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Office and Drug Demand Reduction Program Manager.
"It's hard work and volunteers should not approach this opportunity with the illusion of being a DEFY mentor as an easy assignment," Parker said.
Volunteering contributes to personal development such as building and maintaining personal relationships with youth and staff and developing mentoring skills.
Professional experience gained from volunteering includes management, logistics, administration, complex task completion, and decision-making skills.
Volunteers also gain valuable leadership experience through team building, leading teams, coaching and evaluating performance. Volunteers gain valuable experience and their commands get back a better person.
"I have children 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 volunteer job helps shape their future," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Mirna Morales, a five-year DEFY mentor and volunteer.
"I have been a mentor, Big Brother, and tutor for almost 25 years, but my five years with DEFY were the best," said retired USMC Sgt. Maj. Michael Diggs.
Your NAS Jacksonville DEFY program needs you. Contact CPO(NAC/AW) Michael Twining at Michael.email@example.com or call 904-542-3030 to apply.