Nicholson has first DARE graduation

Published 11:53 pm Thursday, April 9, 2009

Students at Nicholson Elementary completed a nine-week course that aims to help them make the choice to stay drug free.

Thursday morning, 55 students at the school graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, taught by Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. Ishmael “Rocket” Quiroz.

Before they were presented with their certificates, the children heard from Sheriff David Allison and special guest B.J. Condrey. Condrey told the students about the importance of self worth. Each child, dressed in black DARE shirts, listened to Condrey. He especially appeared to have their attention when he ripped a $5 bill in half, his way of representing the loss of self value that the decision to do drugs could mean.

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After Condrey’s speech, one student in each period was presented with a medallion for a winning essay. Quiroz said each student was required to turn in an essay about what he or she learned during the nine weeks. The winning essays were written by Devin Hedgepeth, Bert Morlas and Demetrious Mitchell.

After presentation of the medallions and the reading of each winning essay, all the graduates walked up to the front to receive their certificates.

Allison said the effort to start the program began in January of 2008 when he wanted to come up with a way to address the drug problem in the county. The decision to reach children before they get into drugs led to the implementation of the DARE Program at Nicholson Elementary. Allison said with the support of the principal, Vera Beech, and the county Board of Supervisors, he had only one decision to make, which officer to teach the classes.

Picking Quiroz was a decision that Allison said turned out to be beneficial. Allison said Quiroz is a good Christian and interacts well with children. Nicholson Elementary teacher Kerri Snider told the audience that Quiroz is well liked by all the students in her class, even begging her to pull him in from the hallway so they can ask him a question.

“It just all fell into place,” Allison said. “I would like to thank all of the people who made this dream a reality.”

Quiroz said this year there was time to conduct only one class. However, since the program is underway, there may be time next year to hold two classes. In the mean time he plans to start building relationships with the students of Nicholson Elementary.

Currently Nicholson Elementary is the only school in the Picayune and Pearl River County school districts to offer the DARE Program, Allison said. Poplarville schools do have a similar program, he said.