FLATWOODS – Flatwoods PD’s Bryan Tackett, Russell McDowell Intermediate’s school resource officer, paused an interview with a reporter to wave to 174 fifth-graders after they bellowed a synchronized “thank you” during Monday’s D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony on Russell’s soccer field.

“There’s no better feeling than that, with them yelling your name out,” Tackett said. “They make you feel like a celebrity. It’s all about them. I have a simple job to do, to teach them, and hopefully it pays off in the future and they make good decisions.”

Like everything else, Russell’s D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program went quite a bit differently this school year. Jalina Wheeler, a Russell McDowell counselor, said the program typically consists of 10 consecutive weeks. This year, because of COVID-19 and inconsistent in-person instruction, the fifth-graders completed four full weeks before taking a break, and then wrapping up the final six once everyone returned to in-person learning.

“I felt like we needed to do it in person,” Wheeler said. “So it’s taken us a lot longer than it typically would.”

Wheeler said Russell is thankful to have Tackett leading the charge.

“It’s a powerful lesson that he teaches them,” she said. “He’s so good with the kids. He just jumps right in. He teaches them like any teacher would.”

Tackett has directed the program for five straight years. He’s in his sixth year as the school resource officer. He was instrumental in bringing D.A.R.E. back to Russell after a hiatus.

“To bring the program back was a great accomplishment,” Tackett said. “It made me feel good. You see the kids look forward to it every year. The fourth grade is already looking forward to it, and it means everything in the world to me.”

The masked-up fifth-graders donned D.A.R.E. shirts for the occasion on a nice afternoon on Monday. They spread out on the soccer field and performed a song and dance.

Tackett said the impact is evident throughout the school district.

“The first class I had in fifth grade are now (freshmen),” he said. “I’m not bragging on Russell, but I kinda am. We seem to have less fights than other schools. We don’t have the drug problem here. (D.A.R.E.) gives you the realization of what drugs do to you, and it makes kids think, I don’t wanna be involved in that, I don’t wanna be around that.”

Added Wheeler: “It teaches them to be drug-free and make good choices in their lives.”

The students had a choice to submit an essay or draw a picture based on what they learned in D.A.R.E. for a contest. Barrett Keeton won the competition with a stellar drawing that will become the new design on the hood of Tackett’s cruiser. The drawing features a lion wearing a black and blue D.A.R.E. shirt standing in front of an American flag which has one blue stripe, recognizing police. The tip of the lion’s tail is blue.

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Copyright © 2021 D.A.R.E. America.
All Rights Reserved.