Carolyn Wade was as excited as the parents Wednesday morning in the CMS auditorium, who watched proudly as their sixth-grade children graduated from the 10-week Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program.
Wade was a little relieved, too. As the Craig Police Department's school resource officer, she was in charge of implementing the acclaimed education program to eight classes of Craig Intermediate School's sixth-graders -- a daunting task that required her to learn 165 student names and teach two D.A.R.E. classes four days a week.
"We really appreciate her effort. She does a great job," CIS Principal Don Davidson said. "She put in a lot of extra time, she's the lone D.A.R.E. officer, and she really loves the kids."
Wade was humble about her work, giving credit to her eager students.
"I'm very proud of them, they're so receptive. They had fun and they learned a lot," she said. "They need it, too. Whether they're in a small town or the big city, they're no less at risk of being exposed."
Wednesday's graduation cer----e--mony honored three of Wade's students, Lorelei Bagley, Dustin Willey and Steven Torres, who won awards for the best essays submitted as the program's final, comprehensive project. Bagely and Wade (on Willey's behalf) presented their winning essays to the audience.
After the presentation of graduate certificates, Davidson reiterated that the program's legacy "starts today," and that he hopes the lessons will sink in so he can see the children making good choices until their high school graduations.
D.A.R.E. is represented at no cost to the Moffat County School District, and Dav--idson believes in the fundamental message that D.A.R.E. spreads through the police officer-led K-12 prevention programs in 43 countries, including 75 percent of school districts nationwide.
"It gives kids a good foundation for learning what's out there. It's like a barometer for them to gauge right from wrong and helps develop the necessary skills to resist subtle and overt pressures," Davidson said.
In 2004, the standardized D.A.R.E. curriculum was changed to consolidate the lesson plans and refocus the various projects from lecture-based activities to interactive projects, said D.A.R.E. America Director of Communications Ralph Lochridge.
"Kids are always going to be curious. We want to provide accuracy and facts, not perpetuate urban myths," Lochridge said. "Instead of focusing on specific drugs, D.A.R.E.'s focus is on decision-making skills to avoid high-risk behavior with the officer acting as a coach for brainstorming and interactive projects."
Although the new curriculum stresses choice over drug specifics, D.A.R.E. provides supplemental lesson plans for particular subjects based on community need.
C.I.S. sixth-grade teacher Mary Blakeman, who acts as support staff during the D.A.R.E. sessions, said the presentation on methamphetamine, "really had a strong visual impact on the kids."
Despite the graphic meth presentation, Blakeman echoed Lochridge's assertion about the program's benefit in teaching children to "consider consequences and avoid bad situations."
Wade believed that the greatest improvement in the recent curriculum overhaul was the refreshed use of technology.
"The world moves at a faster pace. They've got flashier movies and brighter materials. The modernizing has made it more interesting," Wade said.
Proudly wearing their black D.A.R.E. t-shirts, the graduates from Kathy Hollingsworth's class were enthusiastic about the experience.
Dario Georgiou said that the most helpful lesson was learning about violence, dramatizing abuse by hitting Daren, the D.A.R.E. Lion mascot.
"We would have to do something humiliating after hitting Daren, funny stuff like singing the teapot song," Georgiou said.
"It was important to know more about drugs," Brittany Rodriguez said.
"They gave us some information telling me how to avoid drugs and violence," Jacob Ungefug said.