The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office recently hosted its annual summer camp for elementary students that have completed the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program during school, which is designed to help kids understand the negative effects of drugs and peer pressure. The program consists of nine 45-minute lessons taught by a street-experienced police officer. After completing the program, students can apply for the sheriff’s summer camp, which is a week long summer camp at Redemption Ranch in Winfield. This year the program saw a record high in participation: 55 percent of all fifth grade students in Lincoln County School District applied for the summer camp. The camp is hosted for two weeks and averages over one hundred kids per week. There are seventeen camp counselors, and countless volunteers that donated their time to the camp this year.
Amy Spears works at Troy Middle School as an engineering teacher with the Gateway to Technology and Project Lead The Way programs. She volunteered her time at the camp to teach the campers the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
“Officer Martinez approached me asking if I would help with D.A.R.E. Camp this year,” said Spears.
A grant was provided from Toyota Bodine to incorporate STEM into the camp schedule.
“We have them doing team building exercise that require out-of-the-box thinking, we want to encourage creativity,” said Spears.
The campers were divided into groups and asked to create a free standing structure out of pool noodles and wooden sticks.
After that, the campers were able to make their own person sling-shot rockets made from common household items.
“We wanted to work with these kids on the engineering aspect of building while including the design element to make it their own,” said Spears.
Among the seventeen camp counselor was Aby Higgins, who returned to D.A.R.E. camp for her second year in the position.
“I really love this camp because I have been able to meet so many new people throughout this process,” said Higgins.
The counselors meet year-round to work on team building exercises, skits and ice-breakers to use at camp.
“My favorite part is watching the kids experience things that they never have before, such as learning CPR, shooting shotguns and starting fire,” said Higgins. She hopes to continue to stay involved in the D.A.R.E. program even after high school.
“I would encourage anyone who is even thinking about being a counselor to take it on, it has been such a fun experience for me,” said Higgins.
Another counselor, Maddy Martin, also shared her experience at the summer camp.
“I have enjoyed the D.A.R.E. program because it has allowed me to make more friends, try new things and step out of my comfort zone,” said Martin.
As a first year counselor, Martin works year-round attending monthly meetings and chaperoning the D.A.R.E. Dances for middle school students in Lincoln County.
With this being her first year, she said she cherishes the memories she’s made so far. The counselors tend enjoy the camp just as much as the campers do.
“It’s neat to watch all of the kids look up to the counselors as role models and it gives them a boost of confidence,” said Martin.
As this year’s camp came to a close, Martin looked back at her favorite memories from the past two weeks.
“One thing I will remember most is sitting in the cabin with all of the kids just hanging out and having fun,” said Martin.
She can’t wait to go back to Redemption Ranch for D.A.R.E. Camp next year.
“There is a great group of counselors, we are always cracking jokes and having fun,” said Martin.
This was the 24th year for D.A.R.E. camp put on by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, and the planning a preparation for the next year’s camp has already started.
Each year the Sheriff’s Office works to improve the D.A.R.E. program to continue to make a positive difference in the youth of Lincoln County.