PUBLISHED: 11:45 AM on Wednesday, February 2, 2005
D.A.R.E graduates fill Centennial Hall

Photo by Christina Holmgren
  Sergeant David Campbell of the Juneau Police Department welcomed students, teachers and families to the D.A.R.E. culmination celebration at Centennial Hall, and told students not to forget to have their picture taken with the D.A.R.E. bear. In the background, guest speakers Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan, JPD Assistant Chief Greg Browning, and Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch.
Centennial Hall had standing room only when the Juneau Police Department gathered participants of Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E) to celebrate the culmination of the nine-week educational program.

This year, the Juneau Police Department has worked with 5th-grade classes in the public schools and at Juneau Christian School, which means Juneau has the largest D.A.R.E program in the state.

D.A.R.E. is a nationally recognized drug and violence prevention program aimed at giving information and skills to elementary school students. During the nine-week program, students learn about the risks and effects of using alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and inhalants, and also learn to withstand and overcome peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol.

The program shatters myths and misconceptions about who and how many teens actually abuse substances, and proves to children that most teens are not substance abusers. Students also work on finding positive things to do in and for their communtiy rather than using drugs. They also work on refusal strategies, communication skills, social responsibility, self-esteem, decision making, empathy, conflict resolution and a sense of purpose and independence.

The D.A.R.E. program by numbers

• 36M children will benefit this year (26M USA)

• 1,000 new communities started D.A.R.E. in last three years

• 80% of USA school districts and 54 countries teach D.A.R.E.

• 12,000+ communities using D.A.R.E.

• 50,000+ D.A.R.E. officers are trained/certified throughout the USA

The culmination ceremony included encouraging and appreciative speeches from Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan, Juneau House Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, and JPD Assistant Chief Greg Browning.

Rep. Weyhrauch said in his speech that his hopes were that one day, when the students find themselves alone, they would be able to draw on the knowledge they had acquired in the D.A.R.E. program to make wise decisions.

Officer Paul Comolli, who has worked with the program in his capacitiy as community officer for the past four years, said during that time, illicit drug use has dropped nationwide with 17 percent. While not wanting to give all the credit to the D.A.R.E. program, Officer Comolli said it definitely has had an impact in the communities where it's been implemented. One study, which was recently published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, concluded that the D.A.R.E. curriculum is very effective in prevention of smoking: Students that completed the D.A.R.E. program were five times less likely to start smoking compared to youngsters who did not participate in D.A.R.E.

Close to 400 Juneau students from 15 different classes at six elementary schools completed this year's D.A.R.E program.