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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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."