I was downtown New Year’s Eve covering pre-ball-drop festivities. I heard someone holler at me halfway through the Winchester Avenue crosswalk.
This happens now and again. The kind individual flagging me down is an adult — too old to call me that — but still courteous and considerate.
For two years I was a volunteer assistant beside Ashland police, helping teach the DARE message in city elementaries. I treasure memories of Friday afternoons at now-closed Hatcher Elementary; value how now-retired patrolman Terry Clark cared for students.
He taught character, uprightness, decorum and power of restraint. He was soft-spoken, but his assertion to stay out of trouble was heard loud and clear.
Although it makes me feel pretty old, I happen upon children who somehow turned into grownups. They never fail to stop and share thanks. We usually chat about where they’re working or attending college. Some have their own children.
Nowadays, expert Officer Rob Simpson is at the DARE helm and is making a sound impression on youngsters. In a region burdened with drug abuse, he has a strong handle on the magnitude of his job.
If his straightforward words sway a class to simply never start using dope, we’re all better for it. In a few years perhaps we’ll see positive end products of Simpson’s efforts.
From personal familiarity with DARE, I have faith. I asked others touched by the curriculum how they feel, as DARE Day and graduation nears. Pam Hall teaches sixth grade at Charles Russell Elementary School.
“This program is wonderful in teaching our students about the harmful effects of drugs, and about making good choices in life. Students benefit tremendously from the information taught,” she said. “They’re so engaged with the skits and the games. The life skills they are learning come easy and are remembered long after class is over.
“It’s a great way to open up lines of communication between children and adults,” she said, adding the program builds a positive relationship with local police.
“I love DARE. It’s an awesome program because Officer Simpson shares with us the dangers of drugs. He makes the lessons fun,” reiterates Harlea Blevins, 12, of Ashland.
In a day and time when “yes” is said by parents too much, these smart kids are ready to say no. A declaration is quick from their lips.
“DARE taught me about the importance of saying, ‘No,’” said Maddy Greene, 11, of Ashland. “I learned that saying this small word can literally save your life.”
Ashland’s Hunter Mays chimed in thoughtfully.
“DARE was a good learning experience. I learned about drugs and alcohol and what they can do to your body. Now, if anybody asks me to do any harmful things, I can ‘Just Say No!’” emphasized the 11-year-old young man.
Simpson’s apprentices are ahead of their time. Take Brianna Lambert.
“DARE really persuaded me to go through life without touching any drugs,” said the 11-year-old Ashlander, popping into rhyme. “I don’t want to ever touch drugs. The choice is ours to make, but we need to remember that our dreams are at stake.”
Her classmate Braedon Ward, 12, adds to the moral.
“DARE is a great program to learn about what drugs do to your body. The more you know, the better you can resist when someone wants you to take drugs,” he said.
I ask your help. DARE is close to my heart — and I want these optimistic preteens to experience an unforgettable program graduation at GattiLand at the Midtown Shopping Center in early May.
To offer help, call DARE Officer Rob Simpson at (606) 327-2071.