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Program Description

The DEFY Program is specifically designed for the 9-12 year old target population, a group described as “at risk” to become involved in substance abuse, gangs, and crime.  Leading up to this involvement are a number of risk factors, including poor grades & attendance at school, poor social skills, and a lack of a supportive and caring environment at home.  DEFY is based on best practices determined by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) and is designed to strengthen factors that make youth more resilient to negative influences.  The curriculum addresses those skills and factors.      

Click here for an overview brief of the program


How does DEFY Work?

The Drug Education For Youth (DEFY) Program is a 2-phased prevention program for kids ages   9 – 12.  DEFY deters “at-risk” behaviors by giving kids the tools they need to resist drugs and develop positive social skills.  The leadership and life skills training provided by DEFY include:  goal-setting, team-building, conflict resolution and decision-making.
The DEFY program is a professionally developed curriculum that incorporates key characteristics of successful substance abuse prevention programs as identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Periodic reviews and updates of the curriculum ensure that it is current and effective.
Studies completed by respected universities and independent evaluators demonstrate that the DEFY curriculum produces a measurable, positive outcome in:

• Resistance skills
• Social behavior
• Self-esteem
• Alcohol attitudes
• Smoking attitudes
• Drug knowledge


Phase I is a structured 5-day residential or 8-day non-residential camp environment conducted during the summer.  During Phase I DEFY youth participate in classroom learning that covers:

• Goal setting
• Leadership and teamwork
• Physical fitness
• Substance abuse prevention and refusal skills
• Self-esteem enhancement

In addition, Phase I participants engage in educational field trips and participate in the President’s Fitness Challenge.  Aside from the education and training the youth receive, Phase I enables youth to interact with adult mentors and staff to enhance the effectiveness of Phase II.


Phase II is designed to reinforce the concepts and training received in Phase I.  During the school year, mentors and staff provide positive support during group mentoring sessions and interactive workshops.  DEFY sites also participate in activities that promote civic responsibility and expose DEFY kids to vocational and recreational opportunities.



In 1996 the Attorney General’s Weed & Seed program adopted DEFY, expanding the program to any location with a U.S. Attorney’s Office.  The Community Capacity Development Office administers the Department of Justice (DOJ) DEFY programs in cooperation with local agencies working primarily with inner-city youth.  Weed & Seed is a strategy to “weed” out crime and “seed” the community with positive resources.  It consists of building partnerships between community residents and police, prosecutors, government officials, local businesses, social service providers and the private sector.

In 1999, the Air Force became a partner in the DEFY effort and began conducting DEFY camps at numerous installations worldwide.  Other federal and local government agencies also support and deliver DEFY in their communities.


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Last Modified: 6/21/2011 11:02 AM
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