ST. MARYS — The first 200 students of a revised DARE decision-making curriculum in St. Marys graduated in the middle school auditorium Friday morning.
Deputy Sam Blank, in his fifth year of teaching the program, said the new decision-making curriculum left him skeptical initially.
“But then it just clicked. It made sense,” he said.
DARE, which Blank said stands for Define, Assess, Respond, and Evaluate, teaches children the dangers of drugs and alcohol, has widened the scope to be more decision-making focused, to include more on bullying and other citizenship issues.
“You’re the future doctors, nurses and teachers,” he said. “Now is the time to use this in the world.”
The new curriculum focused more on teaching specific skills. Besides completing a workbook, the students would practice scenarios, like saying “no” to drugs and drink at parties.
Not all students graduate the DARE program.
The 10-week program concluded with an essay contest.
“We had the daunting task of selecting the winners of the essay,” Blank said.
Winners of the contest were Ty Schlosser, Luke Schloemer, Emma Wibbeler, Jayden VanTrees, Kalie Gayer, Brooke Yahl and Jaden Gibson. Winners received medals in addition to their DARE certificates.
The students turned to face their families and pledged to make good decisions and to stand up to bullies and bullying.
“I pledge to do all these things because I am now a DARE graduate,” the students said in unison.
The students then received their T-shirts, pencils and certificates. Blank told them he still wears his fifth-grade DARE T-shirt.
“You are part of our family now,” Auglaize County Sheriff Al Solomon told students. “It is very important to us and our office that we continue to fight drugs in our county. You as young people can make a stand now ... You can show how tough you are.”
The students were encouraged to join sports, extracurricular activities, and to volunteer as ways to apply their DARE principles daily.