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Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

D.A.R.E. officer honored with service award

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

(Photo)
Shirley Porter
SIKESTON -- Every day, Sikeston Department of Public

Safety D.A.R.E. officer Shirley Porter works with

children, helping to keep them off of drugs and on the

right path. It is this service that earned Porter a

distinguished service award from the Drug Education

for Youth (DEFY) program.

DEFY is a prevention program targeting 9-12 year-old

youth living in Weed and Seed neighborhoods. It is

designed to influence positive life choices through a

content-rich, activity-filled comprehensive

curriculum.

Porter has worked with the program since 1997, when

the U.S. Attorney's office partnered with the Missouri

National Guard and sponsored DEFY for the Weed and

Seed sites of St. Louis and Sikeston.

Currently, 20 students from Sikeston are a part of the

program which is also made up of children from

Charleston, Cape Girardeau, Caruthersville and Poplar

Bluff.

"We are unique because five different cities make one

unified program," Porter said. "Altogether we have

about 70 kids total."

The program is divided into two phases, with the first

being a five-day residential camp for youngsters.

During the camp, leaders such as Porter, interact with

the youth emphasizing the importance of education,

good health, physical fitness and citizenship, while

showing the youth how to combat the temptations of

peer pressure associated with drugs and gangs along

with teaching discipline and building self-esteem.

Sikeston's camp is one of 59 held throughout the

country in coordination with 108 Weed and Seed sites.

"Our very first DEFY camp was held in Sikeston,"

Porter said. "I remember we had it at the armory and

we only had air conditioning in one room. All of our

activities had to be done in the heat."

Since then the local camp has been moved to Imperial.

However, Porter said the program is hoping to partner

with a program in Philadelphia and hold their next

camp there.

"We have one of the best camps in Missouri," Porter

said. "People from Washington, D.C., have been here

and said it is one of the best they have seen."

The second phase of the program is the mentoring

phase.

"From September to May we meet with them once a

month," Porter said. "We have activities to reinforce

what we taught them at camp and we try to help them

with their self-esteem. If they have any problems with

a subject then we help them work on that."

Porter said the children really enjoy the program.

"We had one of our little students whose mother had

just died a couple months before the camp, but he

wouldn't stay home," Porter said. "His spirits were so

good, all he wanted to do was just go to camp. It is

that extra attention that they get and need."

Porter said it is students like that little boy who

make her feel good about the program and the work she

does.

"It makes us feel good as mentors that we can help

these children," Porter said. "It gives them something

to look forward to and helps them build character."