NCO 'D.A.R.E.s' local kids away from drugs
Sgt. Ricky Torrez, the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern's Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructor, addresses Kaiserslautern Elementary School student body, their parents and teachers, May 1, at the D.A.R.E. graduation at the school's auditorium on Vogelweh in Kaiserslautern.

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- What surprised Sgt. Ricky Torrez, the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern's Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, the most during his first year teaching the D.A.R.E. program was just how much more fifth graders of today know about drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

"They are more exposed to drug, tobacco and alcohol use because of TV, movies and video games than I was at their age - especially here (in Kaiserslautern) because there are tobacco signs everywhere," said Torrez, who was in the fifth grade in 1993.

Founded in 1983 - the year Torrez was born - in Los Angles, D.A.R.E. gives students the skills they need to resist peer pressure and to live productive drug- and violence-free lives.

"It's a proactive and preventive program helping students to resist pressures which may influence them to experiment with alcohol, tobacco or other drugs," he said.

The nine-week course features situational lessons and contains topics dealing with drugs, tobacco, alcohol, friendship foundations, and peer and personal pressures.

Going into each class, Torrez taught 454 students at Kaiserslautern, Vogelweh and Sembach elementary schools, and Landstuhl Elementary and Middle School starting in October. The program can be tailored for kindergarten to eighth grade, but Torrez said the primary focus in this year was fifth graders. Due to a teacher's request, he did teach one fourth grade class at Sembach this school year.

"Officer Torrez did a wonderful job teaching our fifth graders about the dangers of drug abuse through structured lessons and role-playing," said Sean Conrad, a KES fifth-grade teacher, at the D.A.R.E graduation Friday at the school's auditorium. Conrad's class was among the 47 students graduating from the program.

One of those students, Sami Patrick, 10, from Jeff Grogg's fifth-grade class, said that the D.A.R.E. class "helps us in the future to not abuse drugs and alcohol."

Melissa Hastings, USAG Kaiserslautern's safety manager, was also at the D.A.R.E. graduation at KES to see her son, Devin, 10, from Conrad's fifth-grade class, walk across the stage to receive his certificate.

"Exposing them to the dangers of abusing drugs, alcohol and tobacco early keeps them from starting unhealthy life habits," said Hastings, who also noticed that all the students seemed really excited to be D.A.R.E. graduates.

The D.A.R.E. curriculum is designed to be taught by police officers like Torrez, who has seven years of military police experience, because their training and experience gives them the background needed to answer the sophisticated questions often posed by young students about drugs and crime.

"When you choose a D.A.R.E. instructor, you need to choose someone who is professional, personable and reliable," said Capt. John Evans, the garrison's Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment commander, who was not only the guest speaker for the graduation at KES, but he is also a D.A.R.E. alumni - 1991 at Robinson Barracks Elementary School in Stuttgart. "He is one of our go-to NCOs. I knew he would do a great job with the Kaiserslautern D.A.R.E program, which was apparent today when I saw how the graduates lit up when they saw Sgt. Torrez."

Torrez said that this program is important for military and civilian communities "because the more these students know about drugs, alcohol and tobacco the less likely they are to use these substances, which is better for the community because less drug and alcohol use means less crime."

(Editor's Note: Christine June writes for the USAG Baden-WAfA1/4rttemberg newspaper, the Herald Post.)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16