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Spring Break 2024 students from Athens Middle School, Athens, Michigan group photo.

Building Futures Together: Special Spring Break Program for Athens Middle School

For the second consecutive year, the DEAEF, DEA Operation Engage Year III, and the DEA in Detroit partnered to organize a spring break program for students from Athens Middle School in Athens, Michigan. This initiative provided a comprehensive experience blending motivation, education, physical activity, and self-discovery. Most of the thirteen participating students were in the 5th grade.

Day one kicked off with a captivating presentation by DEA Agent Brian McNeal, who made a memorable demonstration using an assortment of sodas, iced coffee, and various beverages to simulate common chemicals found in vape products. The students watched in fascination as he combined the drinks into one gross concoction, culminating in a daring sip that elicited gasps of astonishment from the students. Agent McNeal then posed a thought-provoking question: “Would you react the same if faced with the choice to vape?” The students’ disgust for the nasty concoction echoed through the gym, affirming their newfound awareness.

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Following this eye-opening session, students delved into the basics of baseball under the guidance of Rick Zeitlin, DEAEF Youth Baseball National Director. From mastering batting techniques to understanding glove handling, students engaged in drills aimed at honing their skills. Afterward, dance instructors Miss Adiah and Carmilla from Trinity Prep Center introduced students to the art of hip hop, gradually building their confidence through warm-ups and exciting choreography.

Rick observed an initial slight lack of enthusiasm among the boys toward learning dance, yet it swiftly became evident that they gravitated toward it more than baseball. Similarly, he noticed a degree of hesitancy among the girls regarding baseball, only to witness their growing affinity for the sport surpassing that of dance.

The day ended with Rick Zeitlin showing the students short educational videos created by DEAEF partner Addiction Policy Forum, which covered topics including refusal skills and keeping your brain healthy as you grow up.

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Students started their second day by revisiting the dance routine they had learned, culminating in a polished performance. Following a snack break, students immersed themselves in further baseball instruction, refining their techniques through dedicated drills and practice sessions. After cooling down, Jennifer led a reflective “All About Me” session, encouraging students to explore their interests, joys, and choose positive words to describe themselves.

Day three saw a continuation of baseball and dance activities, complemented by an art session where students used paint to create handprints on a large poster board. Once the paint dried, they personalized the handprints with positive words about themselves that they determined the day before. The art was hung at the middle school for all students to see. The program concluded with a team-building exercise, fostering camaraderie as students lined up based on height and birthdays, showcasing their ability to communicate non-verbally.

As the students left with their parents, they received t-shirts and hats from the DEA and DEAEF, and baseball equipment was generously provided by DEA and DEAEF, leaving a lasting impression of empowerment and camaraderie within the Athens Middle School community.

by Meredith Liepelt

Updated Jun 2, 2024

Partnerships, YBP