The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in Richmond County schools is more than just teaching pupils to resist drugs and violence, said Officer Willie Pleasent, one of the program's instructors.
"We also try to teach kids to have a positive attitude. As it says on their shirts, 'Attitude is Everything,' " he said.
More than 85 fifth-graders from Deer Chase Elementary School graduated from the D.A.R.E. program Friday. This is the first year the school has had the program.
The program is taught in nine interactive lessons on topics such as types of peer pressure, positive decision making, violent behavior and what defines true friends.
"We do a lot of interacting with the students. That's how we let them know that we do care about them and that we care about what we teach. Once they see that we care, they really respond," Officer Pleasent said.
That way of teaching has been well-received by the pupils, said Principal Rachel McRae, who sat in on several of the classes.
"It's interesting to the kids. They really enjoy it. It's done on their level and they take an active role in what they learn," she said.
The pupils played an active role in their graduation. They emceed, sang a song, role-played and performed skits. The first-place essay winners read their essays in front of their parents, fourth-graders and kindergartners.
The guest speaker was Allison Campbell, a Safe and Drug Free Schools analyst for the Richmond County Board of Education.
Roneisha McDowell was recognized as the Top D.A.R.E. Student during the graduation.
Contrary to the program's naysayers, Officer Pleasent said he sees only positive results from pupils who have participated in the program.
"I don't see my students going to Juvenile Court. I don't see them getting into trouble. I see them attending area magnet schools and going on to achieve their goals," he said.
Gracewood Elementary School and Collins Elementary School also held D.A.R.E. graduations for their pupils.
Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.