The Loudoun County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (MHSAS) Prevention/Intervention team is partnering with the Loudoun County Public Schools and the Sheriff’s Office to provide a summer program for youth who are at high risk for substance abuse and gang involvement.
The program, Camp REAL (Raising Education, Achievement and Leadership), is part of a continuum of services for high risk youth provided by the MHSAS Prevention/Intervention team. Camp REAL, now in its sixth year, focuses on community service, which gives the youth an opportunity to give back to their community while attending daily structured, therapeutic activities.
The Loudoun County Public Schools provide space for the programs at two schools and the Sheriff’s Office provides School Resource Officers (SROs) to assist Prevention/Intervention staff in daily camp activities at both the high school and middle school camps. In addition to assisting in daily camp activities and community service, the SROs will provide presentations on gang prevention, civics, substance abuse prevention, and computer and driver safety. “This program is in high demand, and we are happy to participate in it,” said Sheriff Mike Chapman.
One community service project allows camp participants to help younger at-risk youth attending another REAL camp by teaching them about gang prevention information and refusal skills that they have learned and practiced. Both groups benefit from this activity in multiple ways. The older youth develop confidence in their abilities and develop relationships with other peers that support healthy behaviors. The younger youth see the teens as positive role models.
Other projects include preparing bagged lunches for the homeless in Washington D.C., graffiti removal, creating public service announcements about substance abuse and gang prevention, and participation in charity fund-raising. Each camp REAL participant can expect to log an average about 30 hours of community service during the four-week-long high school camp.
Key outcomes include an increase in positive social involvement, neighborhood and school attachment, association with a positive peer group, and decreases in substance abuse and gang/violence-related activities among youth participants during the summer months.
For more information about Camp Real, contact Judith Romberg, Loudoun County Prevention & Intervention Program Manager, at 703-777-0176. Media Contact: Anna Nissinen, Public Affairs and Communications Officer, 703-777-0113; firstname.lastname@example.org.