Ecole Poirier Elementary School’s Grade 5 students graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program on April 18.
The program was facilitated once a week for 10 weeks, where the kids learned about the harmful effects of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The students also participated in lessons on how to deal with peer pressure, what makes a good friend and the media’s slanted portrayal of drug use.
Cpl. Barb Cottingham, D.A.R.E. instructor, said the program was also a reality check on the prevalence of drug use and smoking in high schools.
“I asked them how many kids in Grade 8 smoke and their guesses were always so high — 80-90 per cent,” she said. “When in fact it’s 12 per cent.”
Along with dispelling myths, the program encourages open dialogue between kids and parents, which Cottingham said is essential to helping kids make healthy choices.
“(D.A.R.E. is) not a magic pill, it’s just a small portion of getting our kids through school safely,” she said.
During the hour-long ceremony, selected students read out essays written to remind their future selves on the dangerous effects of drugs and alcohol.
The group also performed in a stage skit, depicting the involvement of the community in the prevention of drug and alcohol use in youth.
For the finale, the kids walked across the gymnasium floor to proudly receive their D.A.R.E. graduation certificates in front of their peers and parents.
“I’m extremely proud of my D.A.R.E. kids, absolutely,” Cottingham said. “They’re wonderful, wonderful kids, and I wish them all the best.”
This year’s class will be Cottingham’s last after 11 years of facilitating the program. The corporal will be retiring in the fall, and called the departure “bitter-sweet.”
“It’s really, really hard for me to say good bye,” she said, adding her dedication to the program has developed partnerships with families, and showed the kids that police officers are approachable.
“I’ve got three other D.A.R.E. officers in Sooke here, that will do just a great job, if not better, in mentoring our kids.”