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DARE graduation

January 28, 2011

A group of more than 300 Armstrong Middle School sixth graders are more prepared to resist peer pressure and poor decisions thanks to the completion of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program.
DARE is a program that was started in 1983 by Daryl Gates, a Los Angeles police officer, that seeks to prevent the use of controlled substances, gang membership and violence. The Safe Schools for Healthy Students grant helped sponsor the program along with the Starkville Police Department.
Master Officer Julius Gandy served as the DARE officer for the middle schoolers. He began meeting with the student Sept. 6, 2010 for four hours a week, and covered topics like peer pressure, bullying, drugs, alcohol and tobacco. The program concluded with a graduation ceremony Monday, Jan. 24.
During the DARE program, Gandy stressed the importance of making good choices to the students. He introduced the decision making process to the students to help give them a model to follow every time a tough choice comes up. The first step is to define the choice at hand. Next, the students were told to access the choice in terms of what the consequences would be for the option of choices at hand. Then, students respond to the initial choice they need to make. Finally, students must evaluate the outcome to determine if they made the right choice.
For instance, if a group is pressuring a student to skip school, that student needs to define the choice as either skipping school or going to class. When accessing the options, the student needs to weigh the dangers skipping school poses like getting in trouble with school administrators, getting parents notified by the school and possibly missing a test, quiz or homework assignment that could hurt the students grades. The student would then think about the repercussions of deciding to go against the group and attend class. This could cause the group to tease the student for not going along with them, which in turn could result in a lack of acceptance by the group.
Hopefully, with the help of the DARE program teachings, the student would chose to attend class, and then the student would reflect on how his decision impacted his life.
“The benefits of DARE is that they can learn it now and use the information through their lives to stay drug free and violence free,” Gandy said.
He added that the program is particularly important for the sixth graders at Armstrong because they have just entered a transition stage where they are around older students at their school every day. Peer pressure has the opportunity to be even worse for the sixth graders as they are the youngest students of the school.
Master Officer, and former DARE officer, Freddie Bardley served as the guest speaker for the graduation. He spoke very candidly to the students and parents gathered about how drugs, alcohol and poor decisions affected his life. He explained that his brother spent seven years in jail because of drugs, and that his family was forced to suffer those seven years as well.
“Because he was sentenced, we were sentenced, too,” Bardley said. “I made a promise to myself to not only teacher DARE, but to also live DARE.”
Bardley called parents to take an active role in the personal lives of their children.
“I challenge you parents to sit down and listen to your kids,” Barldey said. “Peer pressure is a big deal to sixth graders, so sit down and really listen to what they have to say.”
Barley then challenged the students to talk with their parents instead of shutting them out.
“Young people, don’t be afraid to talk to your parents, they are your best friends,” he said. “Always be honest with your parents because they will never hurt you.”
At the end of the DARE program, Grandy had each student write an essay about that DARE has meant to them. Three winners were chosen. William Ellis and Sarah Fisher were essay runners-up and Vinny Brocato was the overall winner.
Mayor Paker Wiseman, Police Chief David Lindley, Captain Frank Nichols, Master Officer Laura Hines and Assistant Supt. Dr. Walter Gonsoulin were present to congratulate the students as each one was presented with a certificate of completion.
To learn more about DARE, visit

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