FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 31, 2012) -- Behind all the big smiles, fun songs and entertaining dances at Fort Rucker Elementary School's Drug Abuse Resistance Education graduation May 16, there were serious lessons about drug abuse, peer pressure and violence.

Each of the fifth-graders receiving certificates during the ceremony completed the 10-week DARE curriculum, taught by Sgt. Zeyna Jimenez, about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and how to respond with confidence when pressured to use a dangerous substance.

"It was very exciting," said Collin Irwin, one of the students who graduated. "I wasn't nervous. I was smiling. I was happy. I'm glad I got to sing. I'm glad I got to go up. It was a good time."

Irwin said the program taught him about how smoking, illegal drugs and alcohol can affect a person's body and get them into bad situations.

"It can hurt your body when you grow up or when you have kids," he said.

Jimenez said during the class she talked about drugs, alcohol, inhalants, and even prescription drugs. The students also discussed how to deal with peer pressure and how to say "no" to someone who offers them drugs.

"It's important for the kids to know what's out there, and that they understand what's good for them and what's bad for them," she said. "If people try to get them to use drugs, which is really not good, they will know it is a danger to their health."

The DARE program is a cooperative effort between the police, the school and parents, explained Peggy Contreras, crime analyst and community police supervisor. The graduation ceremony is an important part of the curriculum because the students get to be recognized by their friends and Family.

During the ceremony, the students wore matching DARE T-shirts and sang several songs about the commitment to stay drug free. The lyrics emphasized the importance of standing strong, talking through situations and depending on others for support. One song told the story of a friend who had given in to peer pressure and was found smoking at school.

Marcel J. Dumais, Directorate of Public Safety Department of the Army Civilian Police chief, made an unscheduled visit to the ceremony to thank the children, Families and teachers for their involvement in the program.

"I have the opportunity everyday to see the effects of drugs and alcohol on people in their daily lives -- how it impacts Families, how it impacts marriages, how it impacts individuals and how it impacts the community," he said. "I will say this: There is nothing positive about it. Everything I see is negative."

He asked that the children continue in what they had learned through the DARE program by making good choices and continuing to be drug free.

"I consider the DARE program to be an important program because it is one of the first times students are exposed to this information -- about how to resist drugs and how to make good, informed decisions," he said. "It helps us to get that information to the children at this young age so we can help to develop good, sound judgment techniques."

It's important for the students to learn early, added Jimenez, because some of the students already have some information about drugs and alcohol, but they don't really know what's going on.

"This will answer all their questions," she said.