Students face challenges beyond the pressure to succeed academically. Parents hear about many of these issues as their children move through middle school, high school and beyond.

These challenges include peer pressure, drugs, harassment, bullying, discrimination and low self-esteem. How can we help our young people build self-confidence and deal with these pressures? One program that confronts such issues is the Scotts Valley Police Department’s D.A.R.E. program. D.A.R.E. stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

At one time, D.A.R.E. focused mainly on drug and alcohol reduction education. Such programs disappeared in some communities, but D.A.R.E. has remained meaningful by evolving into a current wide-ranging program. The program’s innovative and highly effective evidence-based curriculum was developed by Los Angeles Unified School District health education specialists.

The D.A.R.E. vision is defined as a “world in which students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors.” D.A.R.E. officers receive 80 hours of special training to be equipped with all the tools they need to teach this relevant course.

Recently, the Scotts Valley Police Department held D.A.R.E. graduation ceremonies honoring all fifth graders at Brook Knoll Elementary School, Vine Hill Elementary School and Baymonte Christian School. These events were attended by City Council Members, Police Chief Stephen Walpole, school principals, fifth grade teachers, police department command staff and many parents. Remarks were made by City Council members, Walpole and school principals.

School Resource Officer Patrick Ahrens talked about lessons learned by students and the rapport he developed with them. All students submitted essays as part of the program; and the best essays at each school were selected for recognition. These students read their essays aloud and were presented with medals by Ahrens. Lastly, teachers presented the students with their D.A.R.E. completion certificates. It was my great pleasure to attend and briefly speak at two of these events.

Ahrens leads all police department school programs, including D.A.R.E. He has been serving Scotts Valley since 2017. He was born and raised locally and graduated from Scotts Valley High School. He also received a degree in business administration from San Jose State. He taught all of the classes, encouraging students to think and write about challenges they are facing or might face in the future. I could tell by listening that students paid attention and took the lessons to heart. Students are lucky to have an officer of his caliber working for us.

The Scotts Valley D.A.R.E. program provides our youth with the information and skills they need to live drug- and violence-free lives. D.A.R.E. lessons focus on providing accurate information about alcohol and drugs, teaching students decision-making skills, and showing them how to resist peer pressure. D.A.R.E. officers give students ideas for alternatives to drug use and violence. Through D.A.R.E., officers establish positive relationships between students and law enforcement, teachers, parents, and other community leaders.

Scotts Valley residents are blessed to live in a community where our police department strives to teach our youth valuable lessons that will help them succeed in school and future life endeavors.

The D.A.R.E. curriculum is open for review to any member of the community. For more information, please contact the Scotts Valley Police Department at 831-440-5670, or visit dare.org.

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