Riverside Elementary D.A.R.E. Graduates 2021

Riverside Elementary and the Avery County Sheriff’s Office graduated the first class from the D.A.R.E. program in 20 years on Thursday, May 6. Back row from left are Whitney Vance, Phoebe Fisher, Tim Winters, John Hicks and Lee Buchanan. Front row are Fisher’s fifth grade class.

Riverside Elementary’s 2021 D.A.R.E. Essay Winners

The essay winners from Riverside Elementary’s D.A.R.E. class are Elleigh Grindstaff (left) and Dakota Laws.

Riverside Elementary D.A.R.E. Graduation 2021

School Resource Officer John Hicks and fifth grade teacher Phoebe Fisher graduated the first D.A.R.E. class in 20 years on Thursday, May 6.

NEWLAND — On Thursday, May 6, fifth grade students at Riverside Elementary became the first county student class to graduate from the D.A.R.E. program in 20 years through the efforts of the Avery County Sheriff’s Office and School Resource Officer John Hicks.

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program has educated young people since 1983 on the adverse effects of illicit drugs in order to deter gang involvement and violent behavior. More recently, the program has been revamped with an added focus on better decision making and the consequences of one’s own actions, as well as to provide awareness to bullying, cyber bullying, suicide prevention, domestic violence, mass shooting awareness and the opioid epidemic.

Riverside Elementary and the Avery County Sheriff’s Office graduated the first class from the D.A.R.E. program in 20 years on Thursday, May 6. Back row from left are Whitney Vance, Phoebe Fisher, Tim Winters, John Hicks and Lee Buchanan. Front row are Fisher’s fifth grade class.

Riverside Elementary and the Avery County Sheriff’s Office graduated the first class from the D.A.R.E. program in 20 years on Thursday, May 6. Back row from left are Whitney Vance, Phoebe Fisher, Tim Winters, John Hicks and Lee Buchanan. Front row are Fisher’s fifth grade class.

Hicks, who serves as SRO for both Riverside and Crossnore elementary schools, said that the program runs for 10 weeks and focuses on educating the students on the importance of making the right choices in life, as well as how to effectively communicate in tense situations.

“It’s been 20 years since we’ve had the program in the county. Riverside is the first one graduating. Last year, every school in the county doubled-up on the lessons in the winter. We got eight weeks in and Covid hit. We had to shut the whole program down and didn’t get to graduate,” Hicks said.

School Resource Officer John Hicks and fifth grade teacher Phoebe Fisher graduated the first D.A.R.E. class in 20 years on Thursday, May 6.

Hicks had attended specialized training for two weeks in order to teach the program and bring it back to kids in the county. Chief Deputy Lee Buchanan added that the training for D.A.R.E. is the second-hardest school in law enforcement and noted that Hicks was specially suited to teach the kids the vital material. Hicks was even able to gather funds for the program through community donors like Mountain Electric Cooperative.

“I don’t think we could have picked a better person than John Hicks,” Buchanan said. “There’s no better Christian man in the county better fit to teach young kids D.A.R.E.”

Fifth grade teacher Phoebe Fisher was also instrumental in bringing the program to her students, of whom two were recognized for their outstanding essays. These students, Elleigh Grindstaff and Dakota Laws, even had the opportunity to read their papers during the graduation ceremony.

The essay winners from Riverside Elementary’s D.A.R.E. class are Elleigh Grindstaff (left) and Dakota Laws.

“I have learned so much in D.A.R.E. that can help me in life. I know to stay away from drugs and smoking. I also learned how to deal with peer pressure. This has helped me a lot. Mr. John Hicks has helped and taught us a lot. I have enjoyed D.A.R.E., and I do not want the class to stop,” Grindstaff said.

“The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program has taught me so many things. I have learned helpful things such as communication, peer pressure and avoiding drugs. This information will help me resist drugs and violence,” Laws said. “If someone offers me drugs, I can use what I learned about communication and avoiding drugs to get myself out of that situation.”

From 2019 to 2020, the ACSO made 118 drug seizures, which equaled a total street value $532,869. The D.A.R.E. program seeks to prevent the use and proliferation of drugs by providing education to people while they are young.

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Copyright © 2022 D.A.R.E. America.
All Rights Reserved.