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Three students Tuesday afternoon take to the stage of Backus Community Center to publicly thank Officer Dane Olson for teaching them and their classmates in the D.A.R.E. program

Nearly 90 Falls High School students giggled and leaped across the Backus Community Center stage Tuesday upon graduating from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

The program is taught by Koochiching County Police Officer Dane Olson, who went through the program as a youngster himself.

Accompanying Olson Tuesday was Police Chief Rich Mastin, Cpt. Tom Lynch, Sheriff Perryn Hedlund, Chief Deputy Jon Froemke, and Sgt. Mitch Lessard.

Koochiching County Police Officer and D.A.R.E. program instructor Dane Olson addresses the crowd. View more photos from the event

“We learned about the harmful chemicals in tobacco, cigarettes and alcohol, as well as peer pressure,” outlined Olson to the students’ friends and family. “Hopefully, the program will make these children good citizens moving forward.”

The D.A.R.E. program, which has been in the U.S. and abroad for 30 years, was originally designed to teach youth that drugs are bad and to help students make better choices, said Mastin Tuesday.

“The program has evolved into helping teach students about avoiding violence and making good choices,” he added. “In order for it to work, all of us need to come together. Without a good cooperative effort, it wouldn’t be as successful as it is. Thank you, graduates, for the work you have done, for your attention and time. I encourage and challenge you to take the lessons Officer Dane has taught you and always remember, we are always here to help – congratulations on your graduation.”

Three students – Aiden Helmer, Jillian Bilben and Kalan Murray – later read the required essays the students have to write in order to complete the program, highlighting their favorite parts of the program, what they learned, and in what ways they can use what they learned in their everyday lives.

In addition, 10 students were recognized for writing the 10 best essays in the program.

Following receiving their certificates, three students publicly thanked Olson for teaching them and their classmates.

The program ended with applause and cheers from the students and their families.

From International Falls Journal