D.A.R.E. Graduation

Published 4:08 pm Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sixth grade students completed an important section of their school career, they learned how to avoid peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol.

During the graduation ceremony, proud parents watched their children collect a certificate that represented the student’s completion of a program designed to help them resist drugs and alcohol and the peer pressure that’s sometimes associated with it.

The program is called Drug Abuse Resistance Education and uses skits and lectures by the Picayune Police Department’s Lt. Bryan Dawsey and Cpl. Johnnie Mae Roberts to teach the children how to resist drugs and alcohol. Dawsey took time to thank the teachers for their cooperation in allowing them to instruct the students for 45 minutes a week during class time.

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Several students who were in the program read their reports to the graduating class, which consisted of about 300 sixth graders from West Side, South Side Upper, Nicholson and Roseland Park elementary schools, Dawsey said.

During each child’s report, the child covered what the students learned during their time in the D.A.R.E. program. Peer pressure and personal pressure were two aspects of drug abuse the children learned to avoid. Lessons on peer pressure covered others pressuring children to participate in illegal or potentially harmful activities, such as drug use. Personal pressure consists of an internal struggle with whether to abuse drugs.

Keeping their youthful look was one of the reasons some students gave for staying away from harmful substances such as cigarettes.

“For the beauty queens who smoke, they will get dried out skin and yellow teeth, ewwww!,” said D.A.R.E. graduate Carol Thompson.

The adverse affects of other substances such as marijuana and alcohol also were part of the students’ reports, and included such things as short term memory loss and delayed reaction times.

The lessons taught children about the adverse affects of those substances and to choose their friends wisely so they do not come into contact with those substances. Dawsey said the program helps children make wise decisions to be drug and alcohol free.

Richards said the program also helps children identify situations where they may come into contact with drugs and how to avoid those situations. Techniques on how to say no in case those situations were unavoidable also were covered, she said.

This was the third year the Picayune School district participated in the program. Since the 2003-2004 school year, about 1,000 students have participated in and graduated from the program, Dawsey said. During that time period, the only year the Picayune school district did not participate was the 2005-2006 school year, a year interrupted and shortened by Hurricane Katrina.

“We hope to continue it for many more years,” Dawsey said.