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Detective Ty Larsen presents a medal to one of the D.A.R.E. graduates.

Mountain Home, ID – Sixth grade students from Hacker Middle School completed a program last week that taught them the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and the risks associated with using tobacco.

During a graduation ceremony Thursday afternoon, more than 250 students received certificates to mark their participation in the local Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., program.

Over the past 10 weeks, the students gained skills they need to say “no” to the risks of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, said Detective Ty Larsen from the Mountain Home Police Department, who teaches the middle school program. In addition, the program focused on other life skills, including peer pressure, bullying, risks and consequences and the need to help others.

Through mentoring, the program helps these students understand they have the choice to make the right decisions versus bowing to peer pressure, said Mountain Home Police Chief Nick Schilz. It’s important for people to make the right choices in life, whether it’s saying no to drugs and alcohol or taking a stand against those who bully others, he added.

Founded in 1983 in Los Angeles, the success of D.A.R.E. prompted police departments to introduce it in schools across the United States. A similar initiative is taught in classrooms in more than 40 countries around the world.

“D.A.R.E. is not a cure-all, but as a partnership with parents, teachers, law enforcement and the community as a whole, I think we have what it takes to educate our kids and give them the tools and information they will need to make healthy decisions about drugs and alcohol,” Larsen said.

As part of their graduation requirements for the program, each student was required to write a report to reflect on what they had learned from the program.

Out of all the graduates, one student from each class earned additional accolades for writing reports related to their experiences in the program. Five of those children read their reports during last week’s program.

Students like Jamison Fossum emphasized the dangers associated with drugs and why teens need to avoid them.

“Drugs are harmful because of the chemicals that you are putting into your body,” he said. Fossum added that students should remind their friends of the dangers associated with tobacco as well because cigarettes also contain harmful chemicals.

Others like Morgan McCall focused on the strategies needed to make good decisions and to say “no” to peer pressure.

“I have learned different strategies such as avoiding the situation, walking away and changing the subject,” she said. “You can also find good friends that have a good influence on you. It is always good to have reliable friends.”

Abbie Zuhlke admitted that she was a bit reluctant to participate in the program but gained a new appreciation once she got involved.

“As a class, we all had lots of fun and learned a whole lot about important things we need to know as we evolve into young adults,” she said. “These things will follow us into the high school and college world as people begin to peer pressure us into things we know aren’t right.”

Zuhlke added that the information she learned over the past 10 weeks “will help me in my journey” to become a responsible adult.

According to Larsen, these students have the tools they need to make the right decisions and to say “no” to drugs, alcohol, tobacco and peer pressure. However, it’s up to each of these children to use those tools.

“Even though D.A.R.E. class is over, I challenge you to use the skills you have been taught to make safe and responsible choices,” Larsen said.

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