CAMP PENDLETON — Camp Pendleton Young Marines is a 50-member youth-led group with the mission to raise drug use prevention awareness all year and especially during Red Ribbon Month in October.
Unlike other youth groups, Young Marines take initiative to organize and lead community outreach efforts.
During Red Ribbon Month Young Marines approach school principals and arrange and deliver drug use prevention rallies.
“They go to schools and teach peers,” Jeremy Jones, Camp Pendleton Young Marines training officer, said. “It’s much more effective when kids listen to their peers than some random adult.”
Training officers attend presentations to support Young Marines and answer “bigger picture” questions of adults in the audience.
They also meet with youth once a week to mentor, teach skills, support youth in their outreach efforts and ensure they have materials for presentations.
“It’s all set up by kids,” Jones said. “Adults take care of the logistical side and give oversight and mentorship. Kids run the entire program.”
In the process Young Marines learn leadership and initiative.
“We give them the tools and they take it and run,” Jones said. “Kids are the promoters, recruiters and instructors.”
Weekly meetings are a bit like Boy Scouts meetings with a drug use prevention focus. Activities include drug demand reduction training, physical fitness drills and basic first aid.
“We vary it week to week to make a nice variety for the kids,” Jones said. “We want to catch kids at the impressionable ages of 8 to 18 and teach them about the dangers of various drugs out there, physically and mentally.”
The program is guided by the principle that knowledge is power. Young Marines are informed on drugs effects, their street names, and consequences of drug use before they are exposed to drugs.
“We go beyond ‘just say no’,” Jones said.
The outreach work is up to youth to organize and present.
One upcoming event Camp Pendleton Young Marines have planned is a donation pledge fun run. Young Marines gather sponsorships for each mile they expect to complete and then take to the Camp Pendleton track Oct. 26 for a 5-mile fun run.
Each Young Marine pushes himself to complete the 5-mile run to raise funds for year-round drug use prevention efforts. For younger runners the five miles includes rest breaks and walking.
“They start at 8 a.m. and go as long as it takes,” Jones said. “They pledge to run a maximum of five miles or 20 laps. Some with shorter legs take longer to do that.”
Active duty Marines will be running Oct. 26 to show their support.
Young Marines also work on community service projects and serve as color guards at events throughout the year. Many of their efforts help and honor veterans.
Red Ribbon month is celebrated nationwide. It honors the service of Enrique Kiki Camarena, a Marine and drug enforcement administration agent who died at the hands of drug lords Feb. 7, 1985.
For more information on Camp Pendleton Young Marines, go to camp-pendleton-young-marines.org or email [email protected]