Tobacco. Marijuana. Peer pressure. Decision making. These are just a few of the topics fifth-graders learned about through 10 weeks of DARE education before Hoover Elementary School’s 23rd annual DARE graduation ceremony May 30.
Coon Rapids Police Officer Ken Young, Hoover Elementary School’s DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer, taught them life lessons for dealing with peer pressure and decision making, as well as the harsh facts about drug and alcohol use. They even experienced some of the effects firsthand, by stumbling around and trying to walk a straight line while wearing “drunk goggles” that impaired their vision.
At the ceremony, the 98 fifth-graders completing DARE filed into the room wearing their new, bright red DARE t-shirts.
Coon Rapids Police Capt. Cary Parks gave opening remarks, reminding students and parents that while Anoka County may be a safe community, drug use is still prevalent.
“Your shirts are not any kind of a force field against drugs and alcohol, your brains are the best for that,” Parks told students.
In his final graduation remarks to students, Young reminded them of how powerful gateway drugs can be, and encouraged them to use the word DARE as a decision model.
D stands for define the problem, A stands for assess the problem and consequences, R stands for respond by making a choice and E stands for evaluate and review the decision.
Before finishing the 10-week DARE course, each student wrote an essay about what they had learned in DARE and why it was important.
A student in each of the three fifth-grade classes with the best essay got to read their essay at the ceremony.
The student with the second best essay in each class got to read off their peers’ names as they received their diplomas.
Many of the winning essays put an emphasis on peer pressure. Lexi Nelson, a student in Deb Brock’s class, wrote about the importance of choosing wise friends to avoid negative peer pressure.
Jolivia Gallegos, a student in Teriann Anderson’s and Jodi Buysee’s class, em- phasized the negative social effects drugs can have, including the potential to get kicked off a sports team.
In his essay, Carter Skull, a student in Amy Anderson’s class, contrasted a drug-free life with a life scarred by the effects of drugs and alcohol.
“Dare is a word everyone should know,” Skull said.
“You should dare to not give in to peer pressure, and say no… drugs destroy relationships and families.”
Young has been working with DARE and with Hoover Elementary School’s DARE program for 12 years.
“My own kids have been through the program, the program is like home to me,” Young said.
Young said each group he’s worked with still has its own distinguishing characteristics.
“The kids have a lot of energy; they keep me on my toes,” he said.
Young said former students have contacted him via e-mail, thanking him for running the program and even showing interest in pursuing law enforcement as a career.
“A lot of it comes down to kids making the right friends and making the right choices,” Young said.
Coon Rapids police officers have been teaching DARE since 1988, and four Coon Rapids police officers currently teach around 800 fifth-graders each year.
The DARE program began in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1983 as a collaboration between the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Bethany Kemming is at firstname.lastname@example.org