Weeklong drug education camp focuses on making wise decisions Youngsters in Lansdowne get taste of police work, guidance down right path

July 16, 1998|By Ron Snyder | Ron Snyder,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The 40 southwest Baltimore County children gathered yesterday at St. Clement's Church in Lansdowne for basketball, arts and crafts -- and a video depicting a 10-year-old boy being accidentally shot to death by his friend.

The video and the discussion it sparked are part of a weeklong day camp sponsored by Baltimore County Police with a curriculum that focuses on drug education and ways to settle disputes without violence.

Modeled after similar programs across the country, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program supplements typical summer camp activities with a visit to the police department's crime lab, a demonstration of hostage negotiations and a demonstration of how police dogs are trained.

"What we want to do here is guide them on how to make decisions and how the choices they make now will impact the rest of their lives," said Detective Gail Wolff, a DARE officer involved with the camp. "If you preach to them, the kids will just be turned off and may not listen to you."

The Lansdowne camp, and another one-week camp in Edgemere next month, is free to students nominated by teachers and counselors. Tomorrow, the Lansdowne students, most of whom will attend sixth grade next year, will receive a diploma from the camp and attend a barbecue with their families.

"The schools have chosen people who they feel will benefit from this experience and who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go to camp. These are not necessarily 'at-risk' kids," Wolff said.

Such camps are part of a growing movement to expand standard drug education strategies, said Michael M. Gimbel, director of the Baltimore County Office of Substance Abuse.

" 'Just say no' worked great in the 1970s and 1980s, but today we are finding that kids need a more hands-on approach to learning about drugs," said Gimbel. "What we need to teach kids today is really decision-making skills they can use in every aspect of their lives."

Wolff said the camps can help foster a better understanding between students and police.

"We want the kids here to learn about drugs and guns, but we also want them to have high self-esteem and understand that what they see on television is not necessarily reality," Wolff said.

The program's variety appeared to appeal to students attending the camp yesterday.

Kevin Durkin, 11, of Lansdowne, was struck by the workshops on how to settle disputes peacefully. "We have definitely learned that there are better ways to solve a conflict other than through violence," he said.

Monique Nelson, 11, was fascinated by her visit to the police dogs earlier this week.

"It was unbelievable how those dogs knew exactly when and where to attack criminals, yet they were very nice to me," Moniquesaid.

Another 11-year-old, Ben Alexander, enjoyed the crime lab visit, where he saw how police use fingerprints in an investigation.

"I never thought I could learn something and have so much fun at the same time," said Ben. "I know I will be able to take the things I learned here and use them in the future."

Pub Date: 7/16/98

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