Russell Elementary students graduated from the D.A.R.E. program at Russell-McDowell Intermediate School on Monday.

About 153 fifth-grade students — all wearing white shirts that read “keep kids off drugs” — filled the gymnasium early afternoon Monday to be recognized for their completion of the 10-week Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

Bryan Tackett, Russell school resource officer and a Flatwoods police officer, has now been part of educating eight fifth-grade classes and said making a difference in children’s lives is a passion.

“I know I won’t get through to every kid that I teach,” he said. “I feel if I get that one kid to make that decision to say, hey, I remember your program or remember what you did, to me that’s worth it to my life.”

Tackett said to the crowd that the program “teaches kids to be confident in life choices, how to stand up to bullying, how to say no to drugs and how to be a good citizen. These kids are our future and we need to support them now and teach them the proper ways of life.”

In addition to dozens of certificates, six students were recognized for their D.A.R.E. essays. Claire Fields won “best essay.” Braelynn Waller, Ellie Johnson, Lottie Stevens, Molly Pack and Bria Bradley were all deemed essay winners.

Fields read her essay to the crowd.

“More than 106,000 people in the United States died because of drug-involved overdose deaths. Yeah, I know. That’s pretty bad. The only reason why I am saying this is so you don’t become one of the 106,000 people,” she said. “You don’t want to end up in the hospital or, worse, end up being in the ground in a coffin. … It only takes one try, and before you know it, you’re addicted.”

Toward the end of the graduation, all students sang and danced to the D.A.R.E. program theme song called “I will D.A.R.E.”

Tackett said, “I plan on doing this as long as they keep it, the city supports it, the school supports it. As of right now I plan on coming back next year and start strong at the beginning of the school year.”

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