HOULKA/OKOLONA – This is the third year for Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Department DARE Officer Keith Roberson to teach fifth graders in Houlka and Okolona.
A career law enforcement officer, Roberson tells kids drugs will steal their dreams, drugs will scar their family and drugs will ruin their health and uses DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) to prove it.
“If you can give kids the facts, I think most of the time they will make good choices,” said Roberson. “We don’t get through to all of them, but I do think DARE makes a difference.”
Roberson wrapped up the nine-week course with fifth-graders at Houlka and Okolona schools earlier this month. The program finished with an assembly where students were presented with certificates and where DARE essay contest winners read their work.
“We meet with them for an hour each week and go over the dangers of drug abuse,” said Roberson. “New this year was how to address bullying in school and in the neighborhood.”
Winners of the 2014 DARE Essay contest were:
Jakialla Ivy – Okolona.
Ahmad Whitifield – Okolona.
Abby Winter – Houlka.
Payne Graves – Houlka.
These students received a plaque, DARE Medal and a stuffed Daren the Lion — the DARE mascot.
Facing unparalleled drug abuse among youth in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates and the Los Angeles Unified School District in 1983 launched an unprecedented and innovative substance abuse prevention education program – Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
With each passing year, DARE’s success has been seen in classrooms and homes leading to rapid growth and expansion of the program to a national curriculum that is now taught to 75 percent of the nation’s students in 300,000 classrooms.
Roberson said DARE’s vision is simple:
“Teaching students good decision-making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives,” said Roberson. “We give them the data and the facts and realize they have to make the choices.”
As a sheriff’s deputy, Roberson said he is constantly approached by parents with kids in trouble or starting down the wrong path.
“I tell parents they are the first line of defense,” said Roberson. “They need to get involved in their child’s life early on, then be involved daily and stay involved for the rest of their life.”
DARE is aimed at fifth graders – kids who are no longer elementary students but not quite high schoolers.
“Your child has or will be exposed to drugs,” said Roberson. “The choice they make will have far-reaching consequences and we try to explain that with DARE before they start”
Students who enter the DARE program sign a pledge to never do drugs.
DARE officers are graduates themselves of an intensive training program that teachers classroom management, teaching techniques and communication skills.
The DARE program enables students to interact with police officers or sheriffs in a controlled, safe, classroom environment and hopefully develop a relationship with authorities that can be used in later teen years.
DARE receives is funding from the U.S. Department of Justice. The curriculum does require police officers to take time off from their job and requires teachers to budget one hour a week into their lesson plan.