Teachers Kara Brown and Hannah Laswell, who were among the nearly 150 volunteers at Camp UNITE in Williamsburg last week, know first hand the impact that UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education) can have on a young person.
In 2004 when Brown was a sixth grader and Laswell was a fourth grader, each joined their local school’s UNITE Club, which at the time were pilot projects.
“Really UNITE has been a part of my life for a very long time,” Brown noted.
Laswell said that the foundation UNITE created for her as a 10 or 11 year old is something she took with her during her whole life.
“When I was in high school, my uncle passed away because of drug abuse. Obviously that took a huge toll on my family and me. Because of that base that I learned about and the message UNITE carries, I was able to take that message and share it with a lot of people. Really it just opened doors for me,” Laswell said.
“Every time we come to Camp UNITE it reminds us why we fell in love with this place. It makes us think of ourselves but then those kids we get to be involved with, how passionate they are. It is just amazing. We are seeing it now from a teacher’s perspective and a volunteer’s perspective, but we have also seen it from a kid’s perspective. It really does work.”
When Laswell went to college, she was one of the first nine recipients of an Operation UNITE scholarship.
“Most of my life I have been involved with UNITE,” Laswell said.
Although neither were campers at Camp UNITE when they were young, Brown has been a volunteer at the camp since 2011 and Laswell since 2012.
Each fell in love with the experience.
Camp UNITE, which is a three-night, four-day residential drug awareness leadership and adventure program for young people, was held at the University of the Cumberlands from July 23-26.
The theme for Camp UNITE 2019 was “UNITE Strong: Stronger Together.”
The theme reflected that each person has their own unique strengths and abilities. This theme also reflected that working together can help identify and develop not only your strengths, but also those of your peers. By combining these strengths we become more successful and have a source of support when facing life’s challenges.
Throughout the week, this message was conveyed through fun, interactive activities that expose participants to new options and opportunities. In addition, time was set aside for introspective discussions and special presentations about the consequences of poor decision-making and ways to avoid making the wrong choices.
“Hannah and I are both educators. She does middle school and I do preschool. We just see the impact that it has on the lives of these kids. Not only that, what they learn here, they take home,” Brown noted last Wednesday.
“We have 250 campers here this week. Think of how many families that is going to impact. That will double, triple even quadruple. What we are teaching here is going to go home and it is going spread through Eastern Kentucky. It is fun with a drug free message.”