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As one class of D.A.R.E. students graduates, another is ready to begin.
Fifth-graders across Brunswick County are participating in D.A.R.E. graduations this month, celebrating their success in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
D.A.R.E. officers Adam Stanley and Bradley Huggins of the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office are D.A.R.E. instructors for the county’s fifth-grade classes.
The first D.A.R.E. lesson students learn gives new meaning to the acronym D.A.R.E.— define, assess, respond and evaluate. Those words are stressed to students, which helps them stand against drugs and alcohol, and also teaches then how to make informed decisions in everyday life.
“If they can apply this, if they can learn to make wise and healthy decisions, I think that is the main goal,” Stanley said.
At each graduation ceremony, students sing the D.A.R.E. song, in which they pledge: “D—I won’t do drugs. A—I won’t have an attitude. R—I will respect myself. E—I will educate me.”
To graduate from D.A.R.E., students had to compose essays explaining what they learned in the program. The top winners from each class share their essays at graduation ceremonies. At Bolivia Elementary School’s graduation last Thursday, five students read their essays.
“The best part about being in D.A.R.E. is I can warn the next generation about the affects of alcohol, drinking and drugs,” Taylor Thomas said.
“I promise to choose the right path in life and be drug free,” Sara Helms said.
Stanley said students in D.A.R.E. learn much more than the health effects drugs and alcohol cause.
“It actually teaches the skills they will use for the rest of their lives,” Stanley said.
Stanley said those who teach D.A.R.E. are expected to live the lifestyle they teach so they can serve as role models for their students.
“If they can learn from somebody they respect, I think that sends a positive message,” Stanley said in an October interview.
Mikahla Moss, Bolivia Elementary fifth-grader, reiterated Stanley’s teaching-by-doing theory in her essay.
“I want to go down the right path like Deputy Stanley,” she said.
Brunswick County Sheriff John Ingram attended Bolivia’s D.A.R.E. graduation and said drug abuse resistance education does not stop after the program’s graduation.
“You need to continue learning and continuing carrying it through the rest of your life,” he said.
Caryl Fulwood, principal at Virginia Williamson Elementary School, told her students she has seen students been affected by drugs, has gone to funerals of students affected by drugs and has relatives incarcerated for drugs.
“It’s not cool to do drugs. It’s not fun to do drugs,” she said.
And just because her students graduated from D.A.R.E. and are moving onto middle school next year, they are not off the hook.
“Ms. Fulwood checks in on you at the middle school,” she said.
Todd Coring, former Brunswick County D.A.R.E. instructor, will be sworn in as the North Carolina D.A.R.E. Association president in January. Acting as the motivational speaker at Virginia Williamson Elementary’s graduation, he stressed the importance of resisting peer pressure.
“You need to be loud and proud to say no to drugs,” he said.
SEVENTH GRADE D.A.R.E.
As Stanley and Huggins wrap up fifth-grade D.A.R.E., they begin teaching a brand-new curriculum in early February to all county seventh-graders.
Stanley said the curriculum delves deeper into how to handle and avoid peer pressure and helps students with critical thinking and decision-making skills.
“The kids seem to be excited about starting the program,” he said.
Stanley, a former school resource officer at Shallotte Middle School, is excited to go back to the school and teach some familiar faces. The need for a middle school D.A.R.E. program is there, Stanley said, and seventh grade is where it is.
“The seventh grade seemed to be the turning point for students to turn toward the more negative activities,” Stanley said. “It really will be challenging for all of us.”
Founded in 1983 in Los Angeles, D.A.R.E. is now implemented in 75 percent of school districts nationwide and in 43 overseas countries. D.A.R.E. administrators throughout the country are required to attend training school and become certified before teaching the program.
KATHRYN JACEWICZ is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at email@example.com.