Daren, the official mascot of D.A.R.E. America, anchored one end of the receiving line at Royalston Community School’s recent graduation. Fifteen fifth grade students were congratulated by local and state dignitaries, who joined Daren in shaking the students’ hands, giving fist-bumps and high-fives.
ROYALSTON – Fifteen fifth-graders from the Royalston Community School (RCS) participated in a ceremony celebrating their graduation from a 10-week D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.

Local and state dignitaries were on hand for the celebration, and special recognition was given to the former D.A.R.E. Instructor, Royalston Police Lieutenant Sherry Miner. The current D.A.R.E. Instructor, Royalston Police Sergeant Josh LaMarche, emceed the event, and spoke of the significance of the students’ accomplishments. He expressed gratitude for the enthusiastic support of the program by the Town of Royalston, the Royalston Police Department, and school administrators and faculty.

Officer Josh, as he is known to his students, said this was a particularly special class, as the graduates were kindergartners six years ago when he was a newly-appointed Royalston officer.

“I was entering the world of law enforcement as a new officer… this very class welcomed me to their new world, giving high-fives, fist-bumps, and even took time to read me stories,” he said.

LaMarche, a parent himself, went on to say how proud he is, having watched these students grow into “…the awesome young people they have become,” and commending parents for “…the great job you are doing to raise them.”

The capstone project for the program is the completion of an essay demonstrating working knowledge of the curriculum. Essays are judged for content, grammar, spelling and punctuation. It is a blind judging using a point system, which produced ties in third place and honorable mention.

Reading their winning essays were Bella Kimball (first place), Elise Talbot (second place), Ben Streeter and Izzy Mallet (tied for third), and Brayden Choquette and Sophia Corbin (honorable mention). In addition to talking about the program, each student pledged their commitment to D.A.R.E.’s mission.

Principal Becky Janda addressed the new D.A.R.E. graduates and spoke of their maturity and how they’ve learned from the program. Using examples from the essays, she said that they are already carefully considering choices and when necessary, admitting they need some help.

Following Janda were Athol-Royalston Regional School District representative Brittany Newton of Royalston and Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Forensic Interviewer Gina Melendez, both of whom talked of the program’s value.

Miner and LaMarche then presented students with diplomas, commendations and letters of congratulations. LaMarche spoke of a partnership between police, parents and schools, and challenged the graduates to, “Dare to dream big and do good. Dare to work hard and accomplish great things. Dare to be the voice of reason. Most importantly, dare to be confident in yourselves.”

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