By Tim Gardner
On May 4th, fifth graders at Riverside Elementary in the southern end of Avery County, celebrated their graduation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. A ceremony held at the school was led by DARE Instructor Larry Moore, Avery Sheriff Mike Henley, Sheriff’s Detective Casey Lee, School Resource Officer Jeff Smith, principal Whitney Baird and fifth grade teacher Phoebe Fisher.
According to Henley, the county’s DARE curriculum is “a law-enforcement series of classroom lessons that teaches students how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug, alcohol and violence-free lives.”
During the course of the 10-week program taught by Moore, Henley said the fifth-grade students also learned “how to make responsible decisions to help themselves and others, how to deal with stress, bullying and other problems, as well as how to be good citizens.”
All Riverside DARE graduates had the opportunity to write an essay describing how they plan to use what they learned in the program to improve their lives. Ayden Hicks, Milo Nowell and Eli Winters were chosen for having the top essays.
“We have been so thrilled to have the DARE program taught to our fifth graders, for the last two years, post COVID (Coronavirus) restrictions,” Baird stated. “I feel that it is an excellent way to educate, build community partnerships and relationships between our students and law enforcement. We truly appreciate the Avery County Sheriff’s Department’s investment in our school and the DARE program.”
Other schools in the county also had the DARE curriculum for their fifth grade students that was conducted by the Avery County Sheriff’s Department.
DARE was founded in Los Angeles, California in 1983 as a joint initiative of then-LAPD chief Daryl Gates and the Los Angeles Unified School District as a demand-side drug control strategy of the American War on Drugs. At the height of its popularity, DARE was active in approximately 75 percent of American school districts and was funded by the United States government. Although the program was most prominent in the 1980s and 90s, it has had a resurgence in many parts of the nation and has expanded to many other countries as the presence and sale of illegal drugs has become more prevalent in some places, including in various rural sections. The DARE program also expanded to teaching about being violence-free and related topics.
The DARE program consists of law enforcement officers who visit elementary and high school classrooms and conduct a course warning students that drugs are harmful and should be refused. DARE gives students the skills and related training they need to avoid involvement in illegal drugs, gangs, and violence. It also teaches them how to resist peer pressure to refrain from them. Additionally, it condemns alcohol, tobacco, graffiti and getting tattoos as the results of peer pressure.
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