New DARE officer heads for schools
August 8, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 8, 2013) -- Fort Rucker youth made their way back to the post elementary and primary schools Aug. 6 for the 2013-14 school year, and an Army specialist was in amongst them, on her first day at a new job.
Spc. Susan Stone, Directorate of Public Safety, is the new Fort Rucker Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, and she said she was looking forward to spending the school year with post youth in and out of the classroom.
"I never thought of doing it before," said Stone, "but the Army said they needed someone for the spot, so I said, 'Oh, cool -- another opportunity!' and I did it."
DARE is an international education program designed to give youth the skills and information they need to avoid drug use, and also avoid getting involved in gangs and other violent behaviors, according to the organization's website.
As the DARE officer, Stone will facilitate a 10-week curriculum to fifth graders at the Fort Rucker Elementary School in the second half of the year, but she will also visit the other classrooms and school throughout the year, along with visiting with youth at the community centers, housing playgrounds and various events on post, said Peggy L. Contreras, Fort Rucker Community Police supervisor.
"The DARE program has been revamped," Contreras said, adding that the theme is Keeping it Real. "Now, as opposed to being an instructor, the DARE officer will be more of a facilitator. She will kind of guide subjects and let kids interact -- become more of a part of the program."
The program also adjusted its focus to better represent the threats youth face today, Contreras said.
"There've been a lot of changes in the different drugs on the market," she said. "Before, the program focused on marijuana and alcohol, but now it's expanded to all types of drugs and precursors to drugs. We'll also use groups more and do more than just present, present, present -- we'll facilitate group interaction."
Stone said she's ready to get the school year started off.
"I like kids -- they all have their own personalities, they're all different and I'm excited to lead them," through the DARE program, she said. "I want to give them the skills they need to recognize and resist the different pressures of drugs, gangs and violence.
"I also want to show them law enforcement people in a helping role, not just the enforcement role -- or the 'you're in trouble' kind of thing," Stone added.
Contreras backed her up on that point.
"It's schools, parents and law enforcement working together," said Contreras, who started DARE at the post in 1991 and has been running it ever since. "We need parents to engage their children at home. Ask children to tell you about what happened today, start that dialogue.
"I don't like to see parents say to children, 'See the police over there, I'm going to tell them to come get you.' That isn't what we want," she said. "We don't want kids to have the mentality that when they see police they withdraw because they're afraid we're going to get them.
"It makes them feel afraid to walk up and talk to us. We want children to talk to us -- ask us about our guns, or ask about our badges, or those radios on our shoulders. We want them to know we're here to protect them; we're not after them," she said.
For more on DARE, call 255-DARE (3273), and keep an eye out for McGruff the Crime Dog, who will follow Stone around at the schools and events DARE takes part in.