New DARE graduates thankful for program

By JASON RILEY

The Daily News

James Haley of Bowling Green didn't have much help dealing with peer pressure when he was growing up. He started smoking at the age of 16, partly because that's what most of his peers were doing. While he quit at age 30, it is something he wishes he never started.

Today, with a 12-year-old son, he is thankful for programs like Warren County Drug Abuse Resistance Education. "We just had to deal with peer pressure and drugs any way we could," he said. "Nobody explained the dangers of drinking and smoking to me. When I grew up, it was the school of hard knocks that taught me." On Thursday, he was on hand to celebrate his son Chris Haley's graduation from the DARE program at the National Corvette Museum. The elder Haley is happy that his son is growing up involved in a program designed to show children there are alternatives to drugs and alcohol.

"Look at all of the kids here tonight. He is getting help in dealing with the peer pressure. He has already seen three or four of his friends here," James Haley said. "He understands that all of these people involved in the program feel it is OK not to do drugs. This gives him an enormous support group. Instead of thinking, 'Everybody is doing it' like I did, he will see that everybody is not doing it." Chris, 12, a sixth-grader at Cumberland Trace Elementary School, agreed. They taught me how to deal with all kinds of pressures and that if anybody ever asked me to take drugs, I just say 'no.' If they don't go away then, tell a grown up. If they do, that's that," Chris said.

The Haleys were just two of a few hundred DARE graduates and their families who came to celebrate the completion of the 17-part program. DARE, a Warren County Sheriff's Department staple since 1987, is designed to provide special attention to sixth-graders who soon will enter middle school, where they are likely to encounter the pressures of drugs and gang violence, according to Capt. Joe Jakub of the Sheriff's Department.

With events like Race To Beat Drugs, Skate Against Drugs, and Bowl Against Drugs, Jakub and others have tried to entertain the children while building their self-esteem, improving their understanding of drugs and teaching them how to say "no." "We are trying to show them that you can have a good time without doing drugs and how the decisions you make now can affect you for the rest of your life," Jakub said. More than 900 students graduated from the program this year. "This is a great program," said Joyce Odom of Bowling Green. "It lets kids deal one on one with someone they can talk to about things they might not tell their parents about. What (my son Derrick) learned in this program really turned his head. I really don't think he will try drugs after this."

 

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