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182 students graduate from D.A.R.E. in Craig

Noelle Leavitt Riley
Five of the 182 students who graduated from this year's D.A.R.E. program read essays they wrote to a large crowd at Craig Middle School Tuesday morning. From left to right: Ridgeview Elementary's Logan Bickford
Noelle Leavitt Riley

Battling tears and deep-rooted emotions, Kassie Vesely gave a powerful speech about the dangers of drug abuse to an auditorium filled with fifth-grade students Tuesday morning.

“I am here today, sharing my story in hopes that it will help to prevent you from going down the same path,” Vesely said about her hardships related to drugs.

She outlined her first time trying methamphetamine and how it didn’t take long for addiction to take hold of her life.

Now married and a mother of two young boys, Vesely lives a clean life, owns a business — KS Kreations bakery — with her mom and grandma and is proud of her accomplishments.

“I was lucky my consequence wasn’t death. It happens more than we know because of drug abuse,” she said. “I hope that my story has helped you, and I hope that you all take what I have shared with you today seriously.”

The crowd cheered and gave her a standing ovation.

Vesely was asked to be the keynote speaker at the annual D.A.R.E. celebration that honored 182 fifth-grade students for successful completion of the program. This year, the program included Calvary Baptist students, making it one of the biggest graduations yet. Last year 172 graduated from the D.A.R.E. program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

For 11 weeks, School Resource Officers Norm Rimmer and Ryan Fritz, of the Craig Police Department, help 10 and 11-year-old kids understand the dangers of drugs and how to live honest, healthy and happy lives.

“The goal is to teach our kids how to make constructive and positive choices,” Rimmer said. “It’s not so much about ‘don’t do drugs and don’t drink.’ We give them the tools to make healthy choices for themselves. It’s more about the choices and consequences of those choices.”

Tools include identifying bullying or when someone needs a helping hand, how to stay away from individuals making poor choices, and how to walk away from unsafe and uncomfortable situations.

“It’s student-led, officer-facilitated discussions,” Rimmer said of the 11-week course.

Moffat County’s Substance Abuse Prevention Program played a huge role in helping the kids through the course and also footed the $1,800 bill for D.A.R.E. t-shirts given to each kid who completed the program.

Perhaps the most profound hurdle the fifth-graders had to jump was writing 200-word essays, describing what D.A.R.E. meant to them, Fritz said.

“In order to graduate, they have to write a minimum of 200 words in an essay. For 11- or 10-year olds, that’s a big deal,” he said.

Members from SAPP — and other law enforcement agents who have a deep understanding of the D.A.R.E program — judged the essays and chose the top writers from each school.

The essay winners were Ridgeview Elementary’s Logan Bickford, East Elementary’s Koda Balleck, Sandrock Elementary’s Keira Linton and Calvary Baptist’s Rebekah Bolton. The top winner from all the schools was Emma Fritz, of Sunset Elementary, who also is Ryan Fritz’s daughter.

Each student read their essays in front of their peers at Thursday’s celebration held at Craig Middle School. Teachers, administrators, law enforcement officers and parents also attended the event.

Next year, Rimmer and Fritz expect an even bigger D.A.R.E. graduating class, as the shared school program also will have students participate.


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