fifth graders have successfully completed the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program and celebrated the culmination of 12 weeks of hard work with a pizza party and slideshow presentation.
"What we do is we teach kids the harmful effects of drugs. At this grade level, we teach them about alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine and inhalents," said Tom Farrington, a officer who has been running the local schools' D.A.R.E. program for about 15 years.
"In the D.A.R.E. program I have learned that marijuana can cause short term memory loss," shared Tabitha Birch, who was one of five students who read her essay at the ceremony.
In addition to teaching kids the basic facts about drugs, "We teach them the harmful effects and we teach them resistance techniques—how to get out of drug offer situations," Farrington explained.
At the March 30 celebration, Superintendent Neal Miller emphasized the importance of students making their "health and safety" a priority.
"That's why this D.A.R.E. program is so important," Miller said, "because it teaches you how to be safe."
Student Anthony Radovanovich said D.A.R.E. was "a wonderful program my classmates and I have participated in during our fifth grade journey."
He shared, "I learned all the different drugs and their street names."
Radovanovich said all of the drugs, no matter what the name, can be dangerous—"I learned the negative effects drugs can have on your mind and body, such as when alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream."
Katya DiDonato, Colby Cho and Daniel Huegel also shared their essays with the class.
The Briarcliff Manor D.A.R.E. program extends into seventh and ninth grade as well, where hands-on activities like using "Foggles" that imitate how a drunk person sees, teaches students why it is dangerous to operate vehicles when intoxicated.
Todd Principal Nadine McDermott said the skills students learned in D.A.R.E. will become useful "as you begin your journey onto middle school and through adolescence."
During this time, "Your ability to make skillful decisions will become essential," she told the class, asking them to stop and ask themselves the following three questions when faced with a decision:
"1) What is the right thing to do?
2) When is the right time to do it?
3) Who is the most important one?"
As for the last question, the answer is always the same, McDermott said.
"You are always the most important one."