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ROYALSTON — Twenty-three Royalston Community School fifth-graders recently celebrated the conclusion of their 10-week D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program with a ceremony attended by their classmates, family, friends and an impressive array of school district, local and state dignitaries.

D.A.R.E. Officer Sherry A. Miner, a patrol officer with the Royalston Police Department, opened with help from the graduates, who led attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance. She then announced the winning essayist. Honorable mention went to Chance Hubble and Allison Hadmack and Gabriella Linskey tied as runners up.

Jackson Pisani submitted the top essay, which is the program’s capstone project. His essay captured the essence of the class, which focuses on making wise choices. As evidenced by his promise to avoid doing things like “swallowing Tide Pods,” which elicited a few chuckles in the audience, Jackson demonstrated a clear understanding of the D.A.R.E. decision making model. The acronym reminds students to “Define, Assess, Respond, and Evaluate” when faced with a difficult decision.

Graduates also included Makaylee Barilone, Ava Basso, Haleigh Benoit, Aubrielle Brockney, Cody Canfield, Cassidy Cochran, Landon Collins, Autumn Davis, Dakota Fitzpatrick, Timothy Gerry, Alexander Hebert, Camden Hopkins, Benjamin Kearney, Andrew LaPointe, Dominic Maynard, Deven Parenteau, Jackson Phelps, Cooper Sonnabend and Bradley Warner.

Miner introduced a number of visiting dignitaries, many of whom offered brief comments and words of support. Worcester County’s Senior First Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey T. Traver led off with congratulations to the grads. He relayed regrets from D.A. Joseph D. Early Jr. A.D.A Traver explained D.A. Early was with a family whose life was just affected by a drug-related death.

State Rep. Susannah M. Lee congratulated the graduates for their work, along with Miner, for her commitment to the students. She spoke of the family pride she felt, directing some of her comments to younger classmates and siblings who will be part of future D.A.R.E. programs.

Roland G. Hamel, representing the three-person Royalston Selectboard, expressed the trio’s gratitude to the students for bringing such honor to their communities by fully committing to the program, and by making wise decisions.

Directing most of his comments to the graduates, Athol Police Chief Russell T. Kleber insisted that, “You must take the lead! You need to be strong. You need to be a leader,” and in addition to making wise decisions themselves, they needed to role model wise decision-making.

Following presentation of diplomas by Miner, and congratulations of dignitaries, she reminded students that their decision-making affected many people – that families, friends, schools, and the entire communities are affected by their decisions. She urged them to think before acting, and to remember their D.A.R.E. decision-making model.

Miner conveyed Royalston Police Chief Curtis A. Deveneau’s apologies to the graduates for missing their special day. In his written remarks, he told the students the skills they learned in D.A.R.E. will served them well for their entire lives. Sherry thanked the people who spoke at the graduation, as well as, Athol-Royalston Regional School District (A.R.R.S.D.)

Business Manager Lynn Bassett, representing the Superintendent’s office, School Committee Chair Deb Kuzmeskas (Athol) School Committee member Nancy D. Melbourne (Royalston), and R.C.S. Principal Jan Williams, teachers Marisa Coviello and Brian Snell, and Secretary Marie Lajoie. Royalston Patrol Officer Josh LaMarche also attended. She thanked families for supporting their children’s efforts in the D.A.R.E. program.

The D.A.R.E. program at R.C.S. has the support of tax payers, but is funded predominantly through the Royalston Police Association, donations from individuals, groups, and businesses, and contributions of “drug money” from the D.A.’s Office. For additional information on the program, contact R.C.S. or leave a message for Miner at the Royalston Police Department’s non-emergency number at 978-249-5838.

From Athol Daily News