102 graduate from D.A.R.E. program at Happy Valley Middle

Published 8:15 pm Sunday, May 21, 2017

All 102 of Happy Valley Middle School’s seventh-grade students recently completed the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program at the school and were awarded their graduation certificates on Friday.

This year marked the return of the program to the school after several years.

“This is my first year teaching the D.A.R.E. program,” said Carter County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Tracy Pierson, who also serves as a School Resource Officer. Joining Pierson in teaching the program is CCSO Deputy David Munsey, also part of the SRO program.

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In years past, the D.A.R.E. program focused on teaching children to say no to drugs and geared toward a younger age group.

“The county really wanted to focus on seventh grade this year,” Pierson said. “We thought that would be a good age for the program.”

In addition to tailoring lessons for older students, the curriculum of the program has also changed over the years.

“It is more about teaching them good decision-making skills for their lives,” Pierson said. “The lessons were based on teaching the kids how to say ‘No,’ not just to drugs, but to any kind of bad situation, such as bullying.”

The new D.A.R.E. curriculum also makes use of another handy acronym — R.E.A.L.

“The R stands for Refuse, the E stands for Explain, the A stands for Avoid, and the L stands for Leave,” Pierson explained. “It talks about what to do if they are in a bad situation, how to stay safe, and how to leave.”

Pierson praised the work of the students during the program.

“I see a lot of success in the future for them,” she said of the students.

Happy Valley Middle School Principal Jon Minton said he and his staff were excited to see the program return.

“I remember what the D.A.R.E. program was when I was a student and I’ve seen what the program is now,” Minton said. “There have been some things added to the program besides just the drug education. I feel like the D.A.R.E. program has come a long way and has helped our students.”

Minton said the school built the program into the schedule for the seventh-grade students to make sure each of them would have the chance to participate in the program. He said the school is looking forward to continuing the program in the future.