Thursday is National D.A.R.E. day. If you went through the public school system you probably know what D.A.R.E. is, but if not, it stands for Drug Awareness Resistance Education. It is a program put on by police officers to educate children in elementary school about drugs and violence. I remember really enjoying the program as a kid and some things that went on during that time still stick with me now.
D.A.R.E. began in 1983 in Los Angeles and is now an active part of 75 percent of the school districts in the nation and over 43 countries in the world. The program involves classroom activities taught by trained police officers. They teach students how to act in uncomfortable situations involving violence and drugs, and they teach about the facts of drugs as well. Some of the main goals of the program are:
· D.A.R.E. "humanizes" the police: that is, young people can begin to relate to officers as people
· D.A.R.E. permits students to see officers in a helping role, not just an enforcement role
· D.A.R.E. opens lines of communication between law enforcement and youth
· D.A.R.E. Officers can serve as conduits to provide information beyond drug-related topics
· D.A.R.E. opens dialogue between the school, police, and parents to deal with other issues
I went through the D.A.R.E. program from kindergarten until 6th grade and I found it to be a pretty fun and rewarding experience. The officers who came to talk to us made it fun and passed around a stuffed lion that one person got to hold onto for the whole time each week they talked. They did activities with us such as acting out situations and doing activity pages in a workbook.
At the end of the program we had a D.A.R.E. graduation, complete with a poster competition and a story contest. We sang a song that I still remember to this day: “D. I won’t do drugs, A. won’t have an attitude, R. I will respect myself, E. I will educate me now”.
I think programs like this are really important to put on for young kids because it causes them to think about situations that they may not think about otherwise. For kids who don’t grow up in a city atmosphere, they may never be exposed to drugs until one day way later in life and they wouldn’t know how to handle it properly without some previous practice. You don’t perform a speech without practicing first, so why would you go out into the real life without practicing how to handle potentially dangerous real-life situations?
It is really that there are officers willing to do this important job because this can be a difficult topic for parents to approach. The officers do it in a professional manner that informs kids about all the things they need to know, without being overpowering and drilling hardcore drug facts into their heads. The program mixes fun and learning to make a great balance for kids that need a good base at an impressionable age. I am really glad I was able to experience this program and I hope it is still around when I have children of my own.