Students complete DARE program

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, April 28, 2011

Scarier than maybe any criminal investigation, Lincoln CountySheriff’s Department Investigator Byron Catchings found himselfsurrounded. With nowhere to escape he continued doing what he hasdone this whole year – provide means for students to learn aboutsaying “no” to drugs and other bad choices.

More than 500 sixth-grade students from Lincoln County gatheredin the Lincoln Civic Center on Wednesday for a graduation, but nodiplomas were handed out and no tassels were turned. Rather, thestudents were given a party for their hard work during the year inthe drug prevention program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education(DARE).

The celebration included lunch, guest speakers and a magicshow.

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“I like to congratulate them, get them out of the classroom andhave a little fun,” said Catchings.

The investigator began the course in the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict in September before moving to the Lincoln County SchoolDistrict and Brookhaven Academy at the end of January. He visitedthe schools once a week during the 10-week program for about onehour.

Preparing to teach and educating every sixth-grader in thecounty, a first for the LCSD’s DARE program, can be a tiring taskand Catchings is looking forward to summer vacation.

“It feels great, relaxing now,” he said. “I can breathe.”

The DARE program was dismissed under the previous LCSDadministration and was then brought back to the county in 2007. Ithas continued to grow ever since.

“To me it’s a good preventative measure to get kids to learnabout the dangers of drugs and it covers the whole spectrum ofthings kids this age need to be aware of,” said Sheriff SteveRushing.

The DARE program began in Los Angeles in 1983 as a means to keepkids away from violence and drugs and has since been implemented in75 percent of the nation’s school districts and in more than 43countries around the world.

“There are so many things that I learned this year that I didn’tknow,” said Cristina Craig, sixth-grader at Lipsey MiddleSchool.

As many fashions have come and gone since the 1980s, the drugscene has also seen various changes throughout the year. The DAREprogram has continued to re-invent itself to keep up with thechanging times.

Catchings said the program this year focused on bullyingprevention, peer pressure and ways to be in charge of situations inaddition to drug and alcohol prevention.

While the students enjoyed the activities during class,Catchings said he enjoyed bridging the gap between what he learnedduring school and what the students experience today.

“I get a better understanding of our youth today,” he said.”They will explain things on their level.”

As most of the educating took place in the classroom, parentswelcomed the role the program played in helping drive some of thesame messages that are discussed at home.

“Coming from somebody else always seems to sink in more thanjust coming from the parent,” said Mekissa Webb, event volunteerand Enterprise parent. “They think we’re mean or don’t want them tohave fun or whatever.”

Catchings said plans are being made for the program to continuein Lincoln County next year, but with growing school attendancealso comes higher expenses for DARE to operate.

“The program depends on the public,” he said. “I ask the publicto give $1 to support a child.”

Those interested in helping fund DARE in Lincoln County for nextyear can drop donations off at the Lincoln County Sheriff’sDepartment, or call the main office for more information.