Lt. John Morgan of the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office has been teaching the program, which originated in 1983 in Los Angeles, in Bartow since 1992 when the county school system adopted D.A.R.E.
“We see the good and the bad every day,” Morgan said. “Just the other day I had a 30-year-old young lady that I taught and she said, ‘Because of [D.A.R.E.], I haven’t touched drugs.’
“On the downside, we see those who don’t listen until it’s too late and they either find themselves locked up or dead.”
Morgan and three other D.A.R.E. officers circulate throughout the city and county elementary schools each semester, delivering a curriculum that teaches students the skills needed to resist drugs; gangs and violence with an emphasis on self-esteem; communication skills; consequences of drug abuse; decision-making; conflict resolution; and positive alternatives to substance abuse. On Thursday, fifth-graders at Emerson Elementary School graduated from the D.A.R.E. program in front of faculty and family.
“We talked about ... the D.A.R.E. Decision Making Model, and we’ve also talked a lot about what to do if somebody comes up to you and asks if you want to smoke or do drugs — you just walk away — and things like that,” EES fifth-grader Shawonn Lewis said.
Lewis said she also learned about peer pressure that exists beyond drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
“If someone asks you to come over to their house, but you have homework to do, that’s a hard decision to make because you might really want to go play, but you don’t want to fail your grade, so you have to make the right choice,” Lewis said.
Classmate Blake Deaton said he feels the D.A.R.E. Decision Makeing Model, which is to Define, Assess, Respond and Evaluate, will help him when dealing with choices throughout life.
“Before D.A.R.E. I [had not] approached dealing with things that way before,” Deaton said.
With Deaton’s goal of being an astronaut and Lewis’ goal of becoming a math teacher, both said they want to live a drug-free life.
“You can’t do any of those things if you’re doing drugs or drinking,” Deaton said.
Lewis is bringing home lessons she’s learned in D.A.R.E.
“My mom [has] been trying to stop [smoking], so she made a promise that next month she’s going to stop,” Lewis said.
Principal Rob Kittle said the D.A.R.E. program has been integral in preparing students for middle school and high school.
“At the age we’re in and the things kids are facing in school, you definitely want to have this type of education and the support from the local sheriff’s department, especially the [D.A.R.E.] officer we have here, Lt. John Morgan, it means a lot,” Kittle said. “It means a lot to have their presence in the school, it makes a difference in the citizenship at our school, it makes a difference in the kids’ attitudes about going to school.”