ST. MARYS — Local fifth-grade students officially graduated from a drug-prevention program during a ceremony held Friday morning.
Fifth-grade students at Holy Rosary School and St. Marys Intermediate School participated in their DARE graduation, where DARE Deputy Sam Blank congratulated them on reaching the milestone.
Kicking off the event, Blank stressed that DARE isn’t just about drugs.
“Ninety-nine percent of it is about making good decisions,” he said. “Only about 1 percent is teaching you about the dangers of drugs.”
Blank noted different kinds of drugs that are out in the community.
“It is important for me to teach you about all these drugs, but it’s easy to keep you away from them when I teach you how to make good decisions,” he said.
Blank introduced Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon, who thanked the parents in attendance and also congratulated the students, noting they take the DARE program “very seriously.”
“All of you should be very proud of what you’ve accomplished here today,” Solomon said.
He also encouraged the students to contact him or Blank if they ever need anything.
“I say this at every DARE graduation at Auglaize County — if someone tries to tell you DARE isn’t important, send them to Sam or send them to me,” he told the students.
Blank also thanked the St. Marys area staff who let him speak to their students and congratulated the students who won the DARE essay contest.
After the students took the DARE pledge, each fifth-grade teacher introduced each of their students, who received a graduation certificate from Blank, as well as a T-shirt, and shook Solomon’s and St. Marys Police Chief Greg Foxhoven’s hand.
“I want to congratulate each and every one of my students for completing the DARE program and welcome you to the DARE family that I am proud to belong to and have been a part of since my DARE graduation 17 years ago,” Blank told the students after they returned to their seats. “The main message I want every one of you to walk out of here with is this, if you are an intelligent, mature, selfless, person, you will always make the right decisions about drugs and alcohol. People who are weak, cave in to peer pressure, use drugs. Intelligent people will understand the true risk of using drugs. Selfless people will not hurt those around them by using drugs and risk people work to give them.”
Blank encouraged the students to take what they learned during DARE and use it for the rest of their lives.
“I’m proud of each of you, not for just what you have accomplished, but for who you are as a person,” Blank said. “I got to know all of you, got to learn your personalities and got to know how crazy some of you are. I want everyone of you to keep safe, stay away from drugs and alcohol and be able to reach your goals.”
Blank added there are some days in which he’ll ask himself if what he does makes a difference — and noted a cemetery he passes on his way to work every day.
“When I drive to work the same way, every day, as I have for almost five years now, I pass a cemetery from the roadway where I see the headstones of classmates and friends,” he said. “Some of their lives were cut short due to drugs and alcohol.”
Blank thanked the students and wished them well.
“DARE doesn’t end today, this is only the beginning,” he said. “Thank you all very much, congratulations.”