FORT JACKSON, SC -- Fort Jackson fifth graders Aca,!A"dareAca,!A? to be drug and violence free.
Forty-five students of C.C. PinckneyAca,!a,,cs fifth grade classes vowed not to become involved with drugs, gangs and violence as they graduated from Fort JacksonAca,!a,,cs D.A.R.E. program Friday during a ceremony in the schoolAca,!a,,cs auditorium.

In addition to receiving graduation certificates, D.A.R.E. T-shirts and goodies-stuffed book bags, three graduates were honored for winning the class essay contest, in which each student wrote about what he or she learned during the eight-month program.

Coby Hoosier, first-place winner, read his essay aloud to the graduating class.
Ashley Jenkins and Danielle Helfman, were named second and third place winners, respectively.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott told the Aca,!A"graduatingAca,!A? students that the D.A.R.E. T-shirts signified their role in educating younger children about staying away from drugs.

Aca,!A"You learned about different tools that can keep you safe,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Some are hard decisions that can impact your health. That T-shirt represents what you have accomplished. You are a role model (now).Aca,!A?

D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is a curriculum-based series of classroom lessons taught by police officers specifically trained to work with young children, empowering them with life skills that help them stay safe, counter negative peer pressure and make positive contributions to society, said Debbie Wofford, a counselor at C.C. Pinckney.

Aca,!A"This seems to be a transition age before middle school when students will be exposed to the possibility of experimenting with smoking or drinking with their peers,Aca,!A? Wofford said. Aca,!A"It is also an age when they are more likely to be out on their own, so they need to be safe and know who they can go to if they feel they are in danger.Aca,!A?

Wofford said children who become involved in smoking, drinking or doing drugs, do it more often because they donAca,!a,,ct feel good about themselves or donAca,!a,,ct feel they belong to a group.

She said military children, who are transient, can be especially susceptible to succumbing to peer pressure in order to fit in.

Aca,!A"Military children travel all over the world and need to be ready and have coping skills with them to make the best decisions,Aca,!A? Wofford said. Aca,!A"D.A.R.E. does an excellent job helping these kids learn about negative and positive peer pressure.Aca,!A?

Wofford assists lead instructor, Lionel Brown, a DA police officer at Fort Jackson, in facilitating the program, in which officers engage students through interactive discussions, role-playing sessions, workbooks, videos, and games to encourage them to take a personal stake in their own health and well-being, she said.

Brown said he was impressed with how much the children learned, something he said was evident in the essays they received.

Aca,!A"I really was very impressed with it; it really, truly let me know that they learned from the program,Aca,!A? he said.

Brown added that the program was not just about teaching children to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

Aca,!A"I really think it teaches our young people to be more responsible,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Are they going to always make the right decisions' No. But itAca,!a,,cs never too early for them to start to make good, responsible decisions.Aca,!A?

Wofford shared a similar sentiment.

Aca,!A"The D.A.R.E program gets the kids involved in role-playing real-life situations where they have to make choices about if they are going to smoke with their friends, go to a party and drink, and similar situations,Aca,!A? she continued. Aca,!A"D.A.R.E helps them develop coping skills, problem solving skills, decision making skills, and life skills to take with them in life so they can make good choices and be successful.Aca,!A?

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