D.A.R.E.: building confidence, strength through smart choices
March 25, 2010
- D.A.R.E. Officer reaches kids with trust
- Confident kids make smart choices
[Editor's Note: This is the first of a two-part series focusing on the D.A.R.E. program.]
SCHINNEN, Netherlands - Over 400 students at AFNORTH International School in Brunssum, Netherlands, currently attend a highly-acclaimed drug prevention program taught by law enforcement professionals, or in this case, a person the students call their D.A.R.E. Officer: Sgt. Anna Neuser, a USAG Schinnen Military Police soldier.
D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is a curriculum-based series of classroom lessons developed by the nonprofit, D.A.R.E. America. It is designed to be taught by police officers who receive special training in child development and communication.
Neuser took the job last September and found herself teaching kids who dealt with issues way more advanced than what she remembers from her childhood. She is a D.A.R.E. graduate herself, having completed the course as a sixth grader, led by a female police officer who inspired Neuser to enter law enforcement.
School memories are still fresh for the 25-year old Neuser, but "I don't recall having this much pressure when I was a kid," she admits. "It's a lot harder for kids to say 'no' now."
D.A.R.E. counters the pressure by teaching students good decision making skills that help them avoid high-risk behavior so they grow up healthy, safe and secure, Neuser explained. She focuses her approach on building relationships with students, making herself visible throughout the school and "just being there as someone they can trust," she said.
One of the biggest problems Neuser sees in students is a lack of self-esteem. The D.A.R.E. curriculum includes a lot of role playing, which Neuser says helps bolster confidence. "The role play gets them involved, then you see them come up with answers, and pretty soon, they realize, 'yes, I can do this,' and their confidence begins to grow," Neuser said.
AFNORTH Elementary U.S. Counselor, Rick Wirsich shares an office with Neuser and witnesses the positive outcome of her work in the students' behavior. "If a student feels good, feels confident, that student makes better choices. I think that's one of the biggest benefits of the D.A.R.E. program," Wirsich said.
Neuser smiles at that assessment and nods in agreement. Her sixth-grade D.A.R.E. officer would be proud. Neuser plans a graduation ceremony for her own sixth grade D.A.R.E. students later this spring. She knows one of them might stand in her shoes someday. More importantly, she knows her students are equipped with newfound confidence and a valuable set of decision-making skills that will serve them well in life, compliments of D.A.R.E.