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144 Sallie Jones Elementary School students graduated from the 10-week Drug Awareness Resistance Training program, led by school resource officer Joe Angelini.

PUNTA GORDA — Fifth-grader Brady Kibbe-Schwede said he used the techniques he learned in D.A.R.E. to solve an argument with his sister.

The siblings disagreed over the spelling of a word — “Finally, we looked it up and found that neither of us were correct,” he said.

Brady said he analyzed the situation and thought how he could react properly, techniques he learned from Joe Angelini, school resource officer and D.A.R.E. (Drug Awareness and Resistance Education) instructor at Sallie Jones Elementary.

A total of 144 fifth-grade students celebrated their “graduation” from the 10-week program on Friday.

Parents, teachers, and eager students packed the school cafeteria for the ceremony.

The audience heard recorded messages of encouragement from U.S. Rep. Greg Steube.

“Your graduation is something you should be extremely proud of,” he said. “I’m so proud to have leaders like you in my district.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, United States Sen. Rick Scott and United States Sen. Marco Rubio also recorded messages for students.

“The skills that you learned will extend far beyond fifth grade, they’re life skills,” Rubio said.

At the end of the program, Angelini had all of the students write an essay about their experience. He had the principal of Charlotte High School, Cathy Corsaletti, pick three winners.

Brady was one of the three winners, along with Mennah Mostafa and Sophia Rodriguez. All three winners received a $50 Walmart gift card, which was donated from Walmart on Jones Loop Road in Punta Gorda.

Essay winners read about what D.A.R.E. taught them.

“I can use what I learned to make safe and responsible choices,” Mennah said.

Sophia added, “By following the steps I learned in the DARE program, I will know how to handle peer pressure.”

The students had the rest of the day to celebrate at South County Regional Park, swim, and have a barbecue with their families and teachers.

From Charlotte Sun