By SARAH LYNCH - The Independent
Ashland — After learning serious lessons on how to resist peer pressure and live drug and violence-free lives, students in Ashland’s D.A.R.E. programs were treated to a fun-filled day on Wednesday at Gattiland.
This D.A.R.E. Day — sponsored by the Ashland Police Department, ALERT and Gattiland — featured a couple of special visits: Ashland Mayor Steve Gilmore was dropped off by the HealthNet helicopter in Gattiland’s parking lot, and Gov. Ernie Fletcher arrived with his campaign team on his touring bus.
After hours of Gattiland fun, food, and games, about 280 sixth-grade D.A.R.E. students from Ashland Independent elementary schools, Holy Family Elementary and Rose Hill Christian School gathered in Gattiland’s parking lot where they were addressed by the two dignitaries.
“All the things you learned this year will reverberate throughout your lives,” Gilmore said. “You’ve learned about the evil and ills of drugs, which is probably the biggest problem in society today. Please remember these things. And as you go through middle school and high school, help others make the right decision. One bad decision could affect your life forever or end it.”
Fletcher said the drug problem statewide has already begun to dwindle.
“D.A.R.E. has given you the tools to stay away from the things that might ruin your life,” the governor said to the students. “Now it’s up to you to make the right decisions to help continue to reduce the drug problem.”
D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and has proven so successful that it is now being implemented in 75 percent of the nation’s school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world.
Ashland Police Department’s elementary D.A.R.E. officer is Steve Moore, who has undergone 80 hours of special training in areas such as child development, classroom management, teaching techniques and communication skills.
“The curriculum is designed to answer the sophisticated questions often posed by young students about drugs and crime,” he said. “We do a lot of skits with the students dealing with a drug or alcohol issue. Through these skits, we can give them ideas on how to get out of these situations.”
Oakview Elementary teacher Amanda Clark said her students love D.A.R.E.
“They have to write a lot for core curriculum assignments,” she said, “and many of my students chose to write about things they learned in D.A.R.E.”
Clark said she remembered the curriculum she was taught as an elementary student and that it really worked.
“I’m a poster child for D.A.R.E.,” she said. “The things I learned terrified me, which have helped me keep away from drugs.”
D.A.R.E. strives to help young people relate to officers as “people,” to see officers in a helping role and not just an enforcement role. Also it can open lines of communication between law enforcement and youth.
Any way students benefit from D.A.R.E. is worth it, APD Chief Rob Ratliff said.
“You can’t measure the impact this program has,” he said. “But if you can positively affect a handful of kids to keep them off drugs and away from violence it’s worth it.”