Project DARE wraps up 22nd year

PLYMOUTH — For Bremen High School’s McKenna Myers, DARE’s anti-bullying, anti-drug message carried a very personal importance.
“The most important thing in DARE is what I have experienced in my own life,” Myers said. “I have watched what drugs can do to you and your family.”
Like the more than 600 fellow Marshall County students, Myers recently completed the program. DARE is a police program that teaches students how to resist drugs, tobacco and negative peer pressure.
It is an acronym for Drug Abuse Resistance Education. Specially trained police officers throughout the county go into the schools and teach the program, in the hope that four goals will be achieved, Bremen Police Chief Matt Hassel said at the annual banquet on May 2 to mark the culmination of the program.
Hassel is Marshall County’s director of Project DARE Marshall County.
DARE’s goals include: reduce drug use through education, forge a positive identification with local police officers, instill better decision making skills, and a reduction of criminality.
The banquet was a chance to honor the six students whose essays were selected from this year’s crop of 600-plus graduates.
Students received cash and other prizes from the local police department and were given the opportunity to read their essays to family, police officers, school representatives, local officials and members of the community.
In Myers’ case, the personal experience she was referring to involved a close family member who had used drugs but managed to get clean. Myers said the program gave her the tools she needed to help him.
“He really likes listening to me do homework, especially DARE,” Myers wrote in her essay, which she read at the banquet. “He can relate to what is in the program book and situations. I now know that the DARE program can help me make the right choices and I can help my brother to continue to follow the DARE program too.”
DARE has been in place in Marshall County’s public and private schools since 1990. Hassel said a grant was provided then which funded the program for four years.
Today, the program has the support of local government agencies and Marshall County government, the United Way, local drug prevention and education agencies and the schools. More than 20,000 children have taken the DARE program in its 22-year history.
The program is not just about avoiding drugs, as Culver Community School student Alyssa Kinyanjui wrote.
She has learned the dangers of alcohol and tobacco and how these affect the body. But she also learned how to handle a bully and “how to conquer difficult situations,” she said. “Some difficult situations would be like you aren’t supposed to do something but your ‘friends’ tell you you should. That’s a lot of pressure on you. During these times, do what you think the right thing is.”
It is these kind of comments that let the DARE officers know they are making a difference.
“I have taught DARE outside of Marshall County,” Culver officer John Duhnovsky said. “I have never seen or experienced the level of support that we DARE officers receive here. There is a team of people in this county that have done a fantastic job. That is why it is a successful program.”
Essay winners recognized at the event were:
– Argos - Alaura Stone
– Bremen - McKenna Myers
– Culver - Alyssa Kinyanjui
– Plymouth - Celia Robinson and Levi Crawford
– Triton - Maria Schwartz.
Two winners are selected from Plymouth schools because of the amount of students who attend classes there. St. Paul’s in Bremen is included in the program but runs on a two-year cycle, Hassel said.