At Friday’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education graduation, Craig Police Officer Norm Rimmer told area fifth-graders that they didn’t have to take the program’s pledge.
“(Officer) Tony (Gianinetti) and I aren’t going to be able to hear you guys pledge, but I want you to ask yourself, with the last 10 weeks of hard work that you guys put in, why wouldn’t you?” he said. “Not once in any of your essays did I see you guys say, ‘I want to grow up and be a druggie,’ ‘When I grow up, I want to be an alcoholic,’ ‘When I grow up I want to make poor choices in my life.’
“Not one of your essays said that, so I would ask you guys, why wouldn’t you promise this to yourself and to your friends and to Tony and I?”
The ceremony took place in the Craig Middle School auditorium and was the culmination of 10 weeks of work by the fifth-graders at Sandrock, East, Sunset and Ridgeview elementary schools.
During the 10 weeks, which for East and Ridgeview took place in the fall, students were taught about subjects including drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure.
Friday’s ceremony lasted about an hour-and-a-half, which included the presentation of certificates, a speech by University of Wyoming wrestler Joe LeBlanc and essays read by eight students.
Rimmer said the 2011 DARE class had all 175 members graduate.
“Usually we have kids that don’t finish the program, don’t do essays, that just won’t try it,” he said. “It’s kind of a welcome change.”
During the ceremony, eight students were chosen as finalists in an essay contest. Two students represented each elementary school and read their essays.
The essays talked about what each student learned over the course of the 10 weeks.
East Elementary student Charisma Platiko wrote in her essay that she was glad she and her classmates were able to learn some of the consequences of drug use, including cancer, jail time or death. She said she would not do drugs and try to avoid peer pressure.
“No matter what they say, whether they say I’m a chicken or a baby, I won’t care,” she said in the essay.
Ridgeview student Mikayla Quinn won the essay contest and got a special gold medallion.
In her essay, Quinn wrote about how bad tobacco can be for children and the role advertisements play in promoting bad habits.
“What I’ve learned in DARE is crucial in today’s society because we are being exposed to advertisements about drugs, cigarettes and chewing tobacco,” she said. “When someone sees an advertisement, it is put into their memory and they think back to it occasionally.”
Students who shared essays were Eduerdo Rodriguez and Jordan Goodwin, of Sandrock; Kamron Ludgate and Maddy Burch, of Sunset; Kelton Villard, of East; and Alyssa Vasquez, of Ridgeview.
LeBlanc, the guest speaker at the event, talked about those around him who faced issues with drugs and alcohol, including his father, who was addicted to alcohol and later took his own life.
“When my dad died, I kind of felt like giving up, kind of like he did,” LeBlanc said. “I felt like, ‘Well, I could quit wrestling and move backwards, or I could use it to excel and drive forward.’
“I hope that you guys, when you encounter your obstacles, you use them to make you better and I hope that you guys don’t use them as a means to depress yourself and hold yourself back.”
Rimmer said it is hard to tell whether the work with the program helps children avoid drugs in the future, but if one student is swayed not to use drugs, it is successful.
But, he said, it’s up to students.
“Hopefully they make right choices,” Rimmer said.
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