Boys from fourth to ninth grades Wednesday took a break from playing basketball at the Town of Oyster Bay Athletic Center in Hicksville to listen to a Nassau County detective's presentation about the dangers of drugs.
"This is the biggest epidemic this country faces," Det. Pamela Stark said. "Every 15 minutes someone in the country is dying from opiates."
Every year, as part of the Nassau Police Athletic League's Drug Awareness and Prevention Program, children of all ages learn about the consequences of drug abuse. Wednesday's was an all-boys PAL camp.
"My goal is that every person in here will never abuse a substance," Stark said.
She emphasized how important it is to teach children about drugs at a young age. "Middle school is the pivotal point; it's where you can grab them. The earlier the better," she said.
Liam Sherwood, 11, of Hicksville, said he has been learning about the effects of drugs since the third grade.
"I learned if you do drugs, your life is on the line," he said. "Some kids that do drugs don't know what the impact is and if they know now they won't do it later then."
Stark told the 75 Nassau County boys stories of real people and the results of their drug use, such as getting arrested and death.
She used the examples of celebrities to show how drugs affected their lives and used pictures to demonstrate how it changed their appearances.
"I learned more here [about drugs] than in school," Brian Luzzi, 10, of Bethpage said. "Drugs can, like, kill you or change your whole life and make you look different."
While Stark has been giving presentations across Long Island since about 2010, this was the first time she did it through the PAL program, giving the boys at the basketball camp a chance to learn.