Earlier this month, the 2014 National High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Award was presented to a program organized and supported by the following organizations:
- Buffalo U.S. Attorney’s Office
- The Mayor’s Office in Niagara Falls
- The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Buffalo
- The Police Department in Niagara Falls
- Medaille College
- Kids Escaping Drugs
The initiative, which takes place at the Niagara Falls Boys & Girls Club, offers at-risk youth in Niagara Falls a chance at self-improvement both personally and in sports. The annual 8 week summer program takes them off the streets and “features motivational speakers, interaction with members of law enforcement and instruction from academic and health experts.” It is supported financially by money seized by law enforcement from drug dealers.
Michelle Y. Spahn, who is a resident agent of DEA’s office in Buffalo, said that things like the basketball clinic teach children life skills that’ll serve them well as they get older, while simultaneously helping to improve their athletic capabilities. She adds that reaching just one or two kids is enough to consider the program a success.
Participants in the program are anywhere from 10 to 18 years old and are taught the importance of positive decision-making in their lives. They are mentored and given all the necessary tools and encouragement to avoid a life of violence and involvement with drugs. The biggest goal of the initiative is to convince and support participants to make smart choices and engage in positive behavior by staying in school, paying attention to their health and making plans for a successful future.
The 2014 summer program saw over 100 children show up on the first night. More than 60 of them came back for the other seven nights. Exact dates for the 2015 program have not yet been announced.