(Seguin) -- The local impact that the Guadalupe Valley Young Marines is having on the lives of young men and women in the Seguin area is not going unnoticed by others across the nation.
The local unit from Seguin was recently awarded the Enrique "Kiki" Camarena Division Award for it's year long efforts of promoting a healthy, drug free lifestyle and making a positive impact on their community through drug education and awareness.
Camarena was a Mexican-born American undercover agent for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration who was abducted on Feb. 7, 1985, and then tortured and murdered, while on assignment in Mexico. His heroic efforts and sacrifice have continued to serve as the foundation for the observance of Red Ribbon Week in October -- the national stay drug free awareness effort celebrated throughout communities and schools.
The group was awarded the honor during the Adult Leaders Conference for the National Young Marines program held recently in San Antonio.
Dina Dillon, who founded the local chapter and who is now the unit commander, says the Guadalupe Valley Young Marines unit was chosen from submittals from five states for its outstanding efforts continuing awareness for Red Ribbon throughout the year.
"As a national program for young marines, we have over 300 units in the United States and all of us are expected to do after action reports and put together kind of a package of what exactly we do not just during the one week but during the whole year -- how we contribute to our local area and kids under the age of 18 in particular (and) in regards to our program including pictures and things like that. They really want to know how many people we're getting a hold of and talking to face to face as well. We compile it all together and submit it to our deputy director. He was a 20 year veteran working with the police department up in Washington state and is now our Deputy Director Joe Lusignan and the actual DEA is who reviews everyone of these packages for the six divisions that we have in the program itself," said Dillon.
The Young Marines is a national youth education and service program for boys and girls, age eight through the completion of high school. She says the program focuses on character building, leadership, self discipline and promoting a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.
"It is not just for one school district. It's for the whole area, Guadalupe Valley, encompassing Navarro, Seguin, Marion, McQueeney schools -- all of the schools in the area. We do currently drill at Navarro Junior High in their cafeteria and we are able to do our physical fitness there out in the stadium and we have just had some good support from the schools and we participate with all the local police departments, the mayor, all the organizations in town -- the chamber of commerce -- when they need help, we are there to help and volunteer. We just love to be in the community," said Dillon.
Dillon says students are welcome to join the program anytime throughout the year. She says joining the group is a personal investment in their future.
Personally, I've been fortunate to have all four of my sons be in the program and they all started when they were 8 years old and from them receiving and learning the leadership skills and drug prevention skills, they have gone on to graduate college and I currently have two more in college. They kind of felt that they had the 10 years worth of military and so they told me 'no, we are going to college.' They weren't interested in joining the military although I have had a few different kids who did end up joining the military but for most of the kids, sometimes it's a season. They join for a short period -- a year, two years, three years. Other kids will stay in the program a lot longer because they see some of the bigger long term advantages," said Dillon.
The award was presented to Dillon and the local chapter by Robert Patterson, the acting administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Those interested in learning more about the program are asked to contact Dillon at firstname.lastname@example.org.