FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 7, 2013) -- Students from three fifth grade classes pledge to say no to drugs, alcohol and peer pressure as they join a long legacy of Fort Rucker Elementary School students that have gone through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

More than 65 students graduated Nov. 5 from the 10-week program, during which the children learned about adversity, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, peer pressure and bullying, according to Spc. Susan Stone, Fort Rucker's DARE officer.

"The DARE program is about teaching children at a young age that they can say 'no' to drugs, and not just drugs, but pressures in general," said Stone. "If they aren't experiencing it now, they will. We're just giving them the tools that they can utilize to say 'no.'"

Throughout the program, the children participated in exercises to get to know each other, learned how to talk with adults that they trusted, and learned to work and help each other when needed.

Drug abuse is a serious issue that continues to cause serious problems in our society," said Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker chief of police. "The DARE program that all of these young people have just completed will hopefully pay big dividends as they grow up into their teens and through adulthood."

Dumais said that DARE is not only about teaching students about drugs and alcohol, but about what being grown up is all about. He said it's about not giving into peer pressure, making the right decisions and learning to cope with life's problems in a positive way.

Dumais also said that DARE is as much for the parents as it is for the students, because parents need to be involved in their children's lives in order for them to grown into responsible adults.

"For the parents, I ask that they follow some of the tips from this program," he said. "Educate yourself on drug and alcohol abuse so that you have the necessary tools to talk with (your children) and answer their questions."

Students were also tasked with writing an essay on what they learned throughout the program from ways to stop bullying to assessing a situation, and Stone said she was taken aback and almost brought to tears by some of the results.

"The essays were just phenomenal," she said. "They all did amazing and I wasn't expecting the results I got, and it was nice to see that a lot of them (included) me in their essays. It was a really good feeling."

"The essays were so touching," said Vicki Gilmer, FRES principal. "The depth of knowledge that they learned in those 10 weeks is phenomenal and well worth the investment."

A winner was chosen from each class and awarded an E-reader and special recognition for their accomplishment. The winners from each class were: Alyssa Griffith, from Jennifer Kincaid's class; Kellan Sloan, from Stacey Poarch's class; and Riley Little, from Suzette Hilton's class.

Little was more than happy to win and said he only wrote about the things he learned -- lessons he won't soon forget.

"It makes me feel awesome (to win)," said Little. "I learned a lot about saying 'no' and making better choices."

Little's father, CW2 Brandon Little, Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, was in the crowd to watch his son receive the award, and said he couldn't be more proud of his son.

"I didn't realize what a big program this is, but I'm really happy to see that he's learned a lot from it," he said. "It's exciting to see how well he's done in the program.

"He's always done well in school and the DARE program has changed a lot since I was in school, so when he came home and told me he was writing and essay for DARE, I didn't really think much of it," continued Brandon. "When I came here and saw everything that they're doing with the program, I could see that it's changed a lot."

The DARE program is the nation's largest and most successful drug prevention program, said Dumais, and the unique thing about the program is that it is taught by police officers.

"We want our young people, as well as parents, to know that they can turn to their local community police officers if they need help or advice," said the police chief during the ceremony. "We want our children to grow up in a community free from the influences of alcohol and other crimes, and I hope (these lessons) will stay with you for the rest of your lives."