The sixth grade students at Storm Lake Middle School, St. Mary's and Concorida are gaining the knowledge that will help them stay away from drugs and alcohol during their D.A.R. E. (Drugs and Alcohol Resistance Education) classes instructed by Storm Lake Police Officer Pete Erickson.
The 11-week program deals with a variety of topics including considering consequences, learning resistance techniques, ways to say no when drugs or alcohol are offered, building self-esteem, dealing with peer pressures and managing stress.
Erickson, a certified D.A.R.E. instructor, has been leading the course for the past 10 years; Storm Lake has offered D.A.R.E. for seven years. Since October, he has spent one class period each week with the students. Once the 11 weeks are completed, the students take part in a graduation ceremony. Each student has been required to write an essay telling what he or she learned in D.A.R.E. and what they have enjoyed about D.A.R.E. The essays are being judged and several of the essays will read during the graduation.
St. Mary's and Concordia students will complete their course Dec. 17 and the Storm Lake Middle School students will be done Dec. 18. Special speaker for both ceremonies will be Buena Vista University graduate Carlos Martinez who recently signed as a kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers European League.
D.A.R.E. was created in 1983 by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles School District as a proactive means of stopping drug use and violence before they begin. D.A.R.E. is now taught in approximately 80 percent of the school systems throughout the nation as well as internationally.
Sixth grade students, Erickson said, are the target group for this program. "We try to get these kids before they are actually confronted by their peers to use drugs." Students at this age are also more receptive to prevention education.
High school role models from each school, who have also gone through the D.A.R.E. program, are selected and take part in the classes to reinforce the information; that is cool to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
St. Mary's role models are Matty Richardson, Becky Drey, Sam Becker and Beth Hansen. There have been 24 Storm Lake High School role models helping out with the program.
Erickson is sold on the program and he hopes that all the information the students can be used throughout their lives.