News: Guardmembers reach out to community, assist youth with life skills
Story by Sgt. Lauren Twigg
PRESCOTT, Ariz. - Members of the Arizona National Guard Civil Operations team held a “Freedom Academy” for children from various organizations across the state here at the Chauncey Cowboy Camp, Jan. 13 - 15.
The three-day academy is an opportunity to reach out to local youth and help them develop life skills, such as substance abuse awareness.
“The participants achieve these skills by working in small groups that accomplish a variety of tasks in a collective and fun atmosphere,” said Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Jefferson, the Joint Counter Narco-Terrorism Task Force Civil Operations Program manager for Arizona.
The Civil Operations team is a joint group sponsored by the National Guard Bureau, which works directly with organizations to assist with projects seeking to improve the quality of community dynamics.
“Each member of the Civil Operations team brings a unique ability to provide guidance and confidence. This is not a team where any soldier or airman can come in and do what they do – it takes patience, persistence, and most of all, a belief that we can make a difference in the life a child.”
Presently, the Civil Operations team is working with the Southwest Behavioral Health Services, the Boys & Girls Club, and Tanner Community Development Corporation to reach out to communities within the state.
“The confidence and knowledge the youth take from the Freedom Academy can help them understand and avoid many of the negative influences they might encounter throughout their lives,” Jefferson said. “Community-based, follow-up programs and activities, such as this one, help enable youth to stay positively involved within their own neighborhoods.”
Parents whose children are involved with these organizations are able to sign them up for the Freedom Academy, which is held five to six times per year.
“Students leave the camp with lasting memories and a new sense of their abilities to adapt and overcome any challenges they might experience in life,” Jefferson said.