Dare still going strong in elementary schools

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    The Coon Rapids Police Department DARE program has been a fixture in the city's 10 elementary schools since 1988.

    The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program has evolved since then, but its mission remains the same.

    The curriculum for its fifth-grade participants is designed to promote self-respect, self-worth and give young people the ability to say no to drugs and alcohol.

    Hannah Habermann was one of the 54 fifth-graders at Sorteberg Elementary School to receive a certificate Jan. 30 for completing the DARE ( Drug Abuse Resistance Education ) program taught by Coon Rapids Police Officer Bill Michael.

    The 15-week course taught by Officer Bill Michael at Sorteberg Elementary School, Coon Rapids, came to an end Jan. 30 with a DARE graduation ceremony.

    Michael is one of four Coon Rapids police officers who teach the DARE program. He also teaches DARE at Hamilton Elementary School.

    Officer Dawn Berglund is the DARE instructor at Adams Elementary School and Epiphany School, Officer Ken Young at Hoover, Morris Bye and Eisenhower elementary schools and Officer Dick Lafean at L.O. Jacob, Mississippi and Sand Creek elementary schools.

    By completing the DARE program, the fifth-graders pledge to remain drug and alcohol free, according to Michael.

    As part of the course, the fifth-grade students at Sorteberg were assigned to write an essay spelling out that pledge and why they want to stay alcohol and drug free, Michael said.

    Three essays were selected as winners by Sorteberg teachers - a very difficult task, Michael said - and the winning students read their essays at the graduation ceremony.

    They were Maddi Schweitzer, Michaela Anderson and Kali Parke.

    Capt. Steve Bluml was one of original Coon Rapids Police DARE instructors in 1988.

    And one of the schools where he taught the curriculum was Sorteberg, he said.

    "We have made some changes over the years, but it is still a good program in Coon Rapids thanks to officers like Officer Michael," Bluml said.

    Indeed, the main reason why the program has been so successful in Coon Rapids is because officers want to be involved teaching DARE, according to Bluml.

    The DARE program does not have to be assigned, the officers volunteer to teach it, Bluml said.

    "The program does not work if the officer does not want to be there," he said.

    DARE is designed to prevent problems before they happen and one of the main components of the course is role playing by students, Bluml said.

    It gives them the tools not only to say no to drugs and alcohol, but also to resist peer pressure, according to Bluml.

    And students are warned that the person who might tempt them to use drugs or alcohol is not usually a stranger, but someone they know, even a best friend, Bluml said.

    "The role playing is to get them comfortable to react to the situation," he said.

    Fifth-grade students at Sorteberg all received certificates for completing the DARE program.

    Nationally, the DARE program began in 1983 in Los Angeles, Calif., and is now implemented in 75 percent of the country's school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world, according to the DARE Web site.


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