Fifty-five fifth graders at Freedom Elementary became the first to graduate from the recently re-instated DARE program in the Waynesville R-VI School District on Friday, June 15.

The two-week Drug Abuse Resistance Education program – led by School Resource Officer ChristiAna Ball – was one of the options for fifth graders attending summer school this year at both East and Freedom. East students began the program on June 18 and will graduate on June 29.

DARE’s Keepin’ It Real Elementary curriculum teaches students:

Self-awareness and management Responsible decision-making Understanding others Relationship and communication skills Handling responsibilities and challenges

Developing core academic and life skills, the curriculum furthers both educational and prevention goals. Students learn skills to help them learn to control their impulses and to think about the risks and consequences, which results in more responsible choices.

“We believe that if you can teach students to make safe and responsible decisions, this guides them to healthy choices, not only about drugs, but across all parts of their lives,” Ball said.

Mike Wells, a motivational speaker, Waynesville High School graduate and pastor, served as the keynote speaker. He challenged students to remain motivated to do the right thing, even when things don’t go your way.

Awards were presented to the following students:

DARE Leadership Award:  Ahmaun Fowler DARE Distinguished Honor Graduate:  Ellyia Bagby DARE Legacy Awardees:  Jacob Nelson, Don Cing and Alessandra Eggart-Velasquez DARE Ambassador of the Year:  Adrianna Hill

“I don’t think that it’s just DARE that affects my community,” said Hill, who spoke at the event. “I think that DARE affects me and that I can affect my community to be better. I learned a lot about saying no to bad situations and being able to walk away from things that could affect my life in a bad way. If I share these things with people around me, then I know that I can make my community better.”

Dignitaries, including Luge Hardman, mayor of Waynesville; Dr. George Lauritson, mayor of St. Robert; Waynesville Police Chief Cordova; St. Robert Police Department personnel, Chief Shempert and Assistant Chief Light of the St. Robert Fire Department; Sheriff Jimmy Bench, Deputy Burgess of the Sheriff’s Department; Rocky Carroll, the deputy juvenile officer for Pulaski County; and Dr. Brian Henry, superintendent; Hilary Bales, assistant superintendent of personnel services; and Dr. Elizabeth Washington, director of special services, from the Waynesville R-VI School District, attended.

Helping the students become responsible citizens and leading healthier and more productive, drug-free lives were Freedom teachers Ron Sanford, Tina Young, Corey Nichols, Kimberly Fuentes, Miranda Beck, Joanna Adamson, Jennifer Henson and Rachel Rodriguez; Principal Carey Drehle; assistant principals Heather Allen and Melissa Childs; and AmeriCorps members Sierra Zadravecz and Mackenzie Cunningham.