D.A.R.E. Officer Shermila McKinney (left) teaches a group of students at North Pontotoc Middle School. D.A.R.E. lessons include topics on the prevention of drug and alcohol use, violence, bullying, vaping, and internet dangers. North Pontotoc Middle School Principal Jim Matthews (right) routinely visits the D.A.R.E class to show his support and provide encouragement to the students to make good decisions. Students complete their weekly lessons in their D.A.R.E. planners, as they listen and complete tasks as a group.
Pontotoc County D.A.R.E. Officer Shermila McKinney recently took time to reflect on the history of the program and celebrate D.A.R.E.’s 40th Anniversary.

“The D.A.R.E. curriculum has been a pertinent initiative within the county schools, based on strong efforts and prevention measures to reduce student drug use and violence,” said McKinney, who has worked as a D.A.R.E. program instructor for almost 16 years.

“D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is intended to provide students with improved decision-making and communication skills through peer interaction and role-playing scenarios.”

The D.A.R.E. program includes lessons on coping skills, risk assessments, support networks, and emotional and mental health.

“I believe one hundred percent that the D.A.R.E. program has made a difference in most of these kids lives,” McKinney said. “We strive to teach them the facts about drugs, drinking and violence and encourage them to make the right choices in life.”

McKinney added, “Due to the success of the program within our county school system, parents and administrators continue to support the curriculum and its facilitation. I’ve had the privilege of teaching many students throughout my career.

“Even those who’ve gone on to graduate from school and enter adulthood say they remember me most as their D.A.R.E. Officer. That lets me know that our efforts are not in vain.”

The Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Department provides trained D.A.R.E. Officers, such as Officer McKinney, who facilitate the training within the county schools each year. This evidence-based curriculum continues to provide students with a model that will help them lead safe and healthy lives.

“And we’re so appreciative and pleased with the collaborative efforts the program has helped to build between the school district, law enforcement, and the community.”

For additional information on the D.A.R.E. program in the Pontotoc County School District, you may contact the Pontotoc County Sheriff’s Department.

The D.A.R.E. design winner for the Butterfield Elementary bobcats was Jaeden Allen. (Laura S. Crapo/City Journals)

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