FORT RILEY, Kan. - Fort Riley police officers had a long talk with some students at Fort Riley's Morris Hill Elementary School Dec. 4 in the school gymnasium. But this meeting was to congratulate two classes of fifth-grade students for their completion of a 10-week course in drug abuse resistance education, better known as DARE.

"DARE is designed to help kids resist drugs, peer pressure," said Sgt. Torie Koller, DARE program supervisor and a police officer from the post's Directorate of Emergency Services. "They learn about the effects of tobacco and alcohol, what they do to your body and mind.

We have a different curriculum for each grade. Fifth grade is more role playing, more hands on. We have little booklets for them. They're learning more about the way the mind works and the body functions."

About 40 children received DARE T-shirts and other prizes during the afternoon ceremony led by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Paz, DARE officer assigned to the school.

For the past 10 weeks, Paz met with students once a week for a 45-minute class. Each student wrote an essay at the end of the course. The top two essay writers were awarded $50 U.S. savings bonds during the ceremony.

Wesley Baucom, 10, was one of the top two essay winners. Wesley wrote a poem about the importance of saying no to drugs and alcohol. Daniella Apodaca, 11, was the other savings bond winner.

"I have a friend whose parents are alcoholics, and I'm glad that my parents are not alcoholics," Daniella said. "I also wrote about all the different ways you can hurt yourself if you do drugs."

Gary Drake, Sunflower Bank president, presented the savings bonds to the winners.

"DARE really teaches more than just staying away from drugs, tobacco and alcohol," Drake said after the presentation. "It really teaches the basics of making good decisions, and that's a lifelong skill that we believe is very important for students at this age to learn."

Graduates, police officers, teachers and Family members celebrated following the ceremony with refreshments and photos with Daren-the-Lion, DARE mascot.

The students will go through another DARE course two years from now in middle school.

The course for seventh-graders includes the legal punishments for drug and alcohol abuse.