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Whitfield County DARE Graduates

Learning how to make the right choices about drugs and alcohol.

That’s the main message the DARE  program aims to teach fifth graders.

Monday at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center, the Kiwanis Club and Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office teamed up to honor the winners of the DARE essay contest from each of the county’s 13 elementary schools.

 “It amazes me every year how good the essays are that these young people write,” Kiwanian Bert Poston said during the seventh annual program, “the work they put into it, the obvious intelligence that they have, but also just their ability to communicate.

“If you talk to your teachers and talk to your parents,” Poston added, “they’ll tell you it’s not enough anymore to learn and to know stuff. You’ve got to be able to communicate what you know, to be able to tell other people and explain it to them. Y’all have demonstrated that with these essays.”

Emily Neises of Tunnel Hill Elementary School was the first-place winner, narrowed from an original field of about 1,000 essays written by each of the DARE graduates. She earned a $100 prize and a plaque. The Bartow County DARE program judged the essays.

Taking second place and a $50 prize and plaque was Peyton Garrison of Dawnville Elementary, while Abby Crossen of New Hope Elementary was third and received $20 and a plaque.

DARE instructors Tammy Silvers, Darlene Roberts, and Judy Lewis introduced the winners from each of the schools and presented them with a medal and a certificate of recognition.

“All of you are winners,” Silvers told the students, “but you are what we call the cream of the crop.  You have made that step to stay drug free, and all your peers, all the students in your class are looking up to you. So you have to be the one to make sure you stay drug free and make those good choices because everybody’s looking up to you.”

Roberts repeated what she had earlier stressed in class. “If I could have you remember one thing that we said to you in class,” she said, “it’s be a good decision-maker, because if you’re a good decision-maker, then you won’t become involved in all these drugs and violence and gangs and all those other things that we talked about, things that you’ll come in contact with throughout your life.”

The ceremony  was bittersweet for Lewis, who retired from the sheriff’s office earlier this year.

“I have enjoyed my time at Whitfield County,” she said, “but DARE was my best. I’ll always love it, and it meant a lot to me.”

She compared DARE to building a house. “We lay the foundation at school,” she said, “and it’s up to the parents and the students themselves to build that house. And you can make it a good one or you can make it a bad one. So we’re going to rely on you to do all the things you need to do. Be that role model for your sisters and brothers, be that role model for the employer that you’re going to be working for, be the role model for your family.”

Sheriff Scott Chitwood  thanked the school administrators for allowing the sheriff’s office to hold the DARE program each year since 1987.

“We average about a thousand kids each year graduating from the program,” Chitwood said, “so somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 students have gone through DARE in the past 25 years. We’re always asked, are we changing lives? Yeah, I think so. If we save one life, we make a difference, and that’s what the DARE program’s about.”

This year, millions of school children around the world will benefit from DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), the highly acclaimed program that gives kids the skills they need to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs, and violence.

DARE was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and has proven so successful that it is now being implemented in 75 percent of the nation’s school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world.

DARE is a law enforcement officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children from kindergarten through middle school how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug- and violence-free lives.

xxxxxx

The winning essay in the seventh annual DARE Essay Contest, written by Emily Neises of Tunnel Hill Elementary, follows:

I, Emily Neises, pledge to my family, my friends, my DARE instructor, and most of all myself to be drug free, thoughtful of others, and assist them in making healthy life choices.

DARE stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, and using the DARE decision-making model, I can accomplish these goals.

The DARE decision-making model helps me define the problem, challenge, or opportunity, assess my choices, respond to using the facts and information I’ve gathered, and finally evaluate my decision.

Through DARE I’ve learned about the adverse effects of alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and prescription drugs. Alcohol slows down the brain and body, increases your risk of a variety of diseases, and damages your body. Marijuana causes breathing problems, impairs memory, and slows conditioning and reflexes. Tobacco causes breathing problems, heart disease, and lung cancer. Prescription and over-the-counter medicines can also have many dangerous effects if used wrongly.

So why would I want to use any of these drugs?

I think peer pressure’s the biggest reason why people start using drugs. Peer pressure can come from your best friends, special groups, clubs, gangs, or even strangers. Peer pressure is sometimes hard to avoid, especially when it comes from your friends.

Using the information I’ve learned in the DARE program, I can now identify dangerous situations, evaluate my options, and respond in a way that is best for me and hopefully help others avoid similar problems.

DARE also taught me about bullying. A bully is a person who uses their strength and power to control someone else. Bullying can happen in or out of school. It can be physical such as hitting and kicking or non-physical such as spreading rumors.

I’ve learned how to stand up against bullying. I will tell an adult if I am being bullied, stand up for someone who is being bullied, and resist the urge to gossip or spread rumors about other people.

Through the 12 weeks of DARE, I’ve become a new person. I’ve learned things about drugs that I probably would not have known. I’ve learned that drugs can ruin your body and cause many health problems. I’ve learned the effects of bullying and being bullied.

Having completed the DARE program, I can now have the confidence to make better choices for myself, my friends and family and to resist the temptation of drugs and alcohol.

 Whitfield County DARE Graduates

Wednesday, May 16 2012, 04:47 PM EDT

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