APG youth graduate D.A.R.E. program
Four-year-old Nicholas McDuffie receives congratulations from community leaders after graduating the D.A.R.E. program at the APG North youth center April 13.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Parents, friends and community leaders cheered on the sidelines as more than 100 children graduated the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., program during a ceremony at the Aberdeen Proving Ground North Youth Center April 13.

D.A .R .E. goes beyond drug and alcohol abuse prevention, explained D.A.R.E. officers Kim Long and Mike "Big Mike" Farlow, of Directorate of Emergency Services. They said it teaches children about peer pressure, bullying, stranger danger and what to do in an emergency.

D.A.R.E. graduates received a graduation certificate and a governor's citation, signed by Govenor
Martin O' Malley, for completing the nine-week program.

During the ceremony, parent Tamika Cruz told the audience how her 4-year-old son Jayden knew what to do when their house caught on fire last fall.

"No one had remembered to get Jayden out; Jayden got himself out," she said. "The whole reason
Jayden got out is because he remembered what Big Mike taught him about what to do and where
to go during the fire. Because of the D.A.R.E. program my Family made it out alive."

Farlow told the audience about another D.A.R.E. graduate-6-year-old John Kilby Jr. who called
911 when his mother, Mollie Kilby, fell down the steps.

"I was very surprised that he would call 911 himself and know how to give directions to our house," said Mollie. "He learned a lot from the D.A.R.E. program and uses what he learned at home."

Farlow presented Kilby and Cruz a Hero Award for putting to use the skills learned in the program.
Other recognition included: Savannah Cash, 10, for Best Essay; Tyler Long, 9, for Best Poster; and James Webb, 10, and Noah Ruark, 11, won Spirit Awards.

Following a video essay of the program's graduates, D.A.R.E. icon and motivational speaker Retro Bill gave the keynote speech. Retro Bill, known as the 21st century Mr. Rogers, has an upbeat and energetic delivery and uses props to get his point across. Retro Bill talked to the children about maintaining a positive attitude, resisting peer pressure, and confiding in trusted adults.

Retro Bill asked the adults in the room to stand in support of the graduates.

"Always remember this, you are not alone," he said. "You have strength in numbers on your side.
This is what the D.A.R.E. program is all about."

Retro Bill ended his speech by thanking military Families.

"You are serving your country by being a military Family and it is an honor to speak to all of you,"
he said.

Retro Bill also spoke at the APG South graduation ceremony held earlier that day.

Special guests in attendance included APG Garrison and Deputy Installation Commander Col. Orlando W. Ortiz, Director of Emergency Services' Robert Krauer, City of Aberdeen Mayor Michael E. Bennett, Harford County Public Schools Superintendant Dr. Robert M. Tomback, Maryland State D.A.R.E. Coordinator Ann Thacker and D.A.R.E. mascot Daren the Lion.

The installation's DES and Army Substance Abuse Program co-sponsored the event.

For more photos visit, http://www.flickr.com/photos/usagapg/.

Page last updated Tue April 26th, 2011 at 16:05