Dared, that is, to increase their self-esteem and say ‘no’ to drugs, violence, peer pressure and stress through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program.
PEC OPP Community Services Officer Anthony Mann, is the County’s DARE instructor. He is a physically imposing man as he stands about six feet tall at the front of the classroom in full uniform. But it’s clear the students like him and they’re listening to every word he says.
Before he starts the day’s structured curriculum, he invites students to ask questions – any question, any topic. At Pinecrest school in Bloomfield last week, he was asked if he’d ever been to a grow op and what he saw. He was also asked if he always has to wear his hat.
That week’s class focused on making choices and peer pressure.
He asked the students for positive examples.
“It’s like a friend encouraging you to try out for sports or something that you enjoy,” said one.
And he asked about the dark side of peer pressure.
“It’s like when friends want you to smoke… or take drugs… or do something you don’t want to do, like stealing… or something you’re afraid of,” came the responses.
“Peer pressure is like when you feel the weight of the world is on your shoulders,” Mann confirmed. “But peer pressure does not go away. It will always be there, at any age, so it’s important to learn how to recognize it and deal with it.”
The lesson continued with work in groups focusing on the DARE journals’ recommended resistance strategies of avoiding the situation; strength in numbers; walking away; saying no with reason or excuse and changing the subject. The students formed groups to make mini-presentations to demonstrate their techniques.
By the end of the nine-week Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, the students have been given the tools they need to stay in charge of their lives and are encouraged to make healthy choices.
Mann instructs DARE at eight County public schools with an average of 210 students per year. Since the program began in 2006, more than 1,500 students have graduated. Previous to DARE was the VIP (Values, Influences and Peers) program which ran for approximately 20 years in the County.
DARE also breaks down some of the barriers that some kids may already have in their lives about authority figures, says Mann. It helps them feel more comfortable about approaching a police officer and being able to have a conversation with me, or any officer.”
Mann also said he’s grateful to all those in the community who help sponsor DARE. Donations help purchase the books and supplies, rewards along the way and awards at completion of the program.
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