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Pictured are St. Boniface Catholic School fifth-grade students with members of the Edwardsville Police Department at D.A.R.E. graduation.

St. Boniface Catholic School fifth graders Cecelia Edwards, Lillian Gilbertson, Rachel Kretzer, and Spencer Martin were honored and read their winning D.A.R.E. essays recently during the St. Boniface fifth graders’ D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony.

The local D.A.R.E. program, which began 27 years ago as a pilot program for the state of Illinois, is a successful statewide program that brings local police officers into public and parochial schools where the officers focus on positive interaction with the local youth in grades five through twelfth grade.

Originally a program that only taught students the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, the D.A.R.E. fifth grade program has been revised with a new D.A.R.E. curriculum which challenges students by having them participate in active learning. “The D.A.R.E. curriculum that is taught has changed from the original program of ‘Just say no to drugs’ into a decision making process,” Edwardsville Police Department Officer Anthony Dietz, who instructed the St. Boniface D.A.R.E. program, said. “In our classes, we focus on helping the students build the necessary skills to make positive life choices when faced with the common problems of today’s young people.”

“The benefit to the students is the strong foundation of decision-making skills that they apply to real-life situations about the use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and inhalants,” the Edwardsville D.A.R.E. website notes. “These important decision-making skills are acted on through a spiraling set of group and paired activities. The students are actively engaged as they learn how to cope with the pressures associated with adolescence.”

Officer Dietz visited the St. Boniface fifth graders for nine weeks of lessons which culminated with week 10 that provided a review as well as the identification of people in the students’ lives that they can seek for help if needed.

After completing the 10-week program, the students attended a D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony. During their graduation ceremony, Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven, State Representative Katie Stuart and Officer Dietz reminded the students of the importance of making good decisions throughout their lives.

Then the four D.A.R.E. essay contest winners – Cecelia Edwards, Lillian Gilbertson, Rachel Kretzer, and Spencer Martin – read their winning essays to the crowd. Several students also read letters from Gov. Bruce Rauner, Congressmen Rodney Davis, and Mayor Hal Patton, all of which congratulated the St. Boniface students for their accomplishments and achievements.

The fifth graders then received their D.A.R.E. graduation certificates.

“I really enjoy the opportunity to teach D.A.R.E. at St. Boniface and the strong support from the staff at the school,” Officer Dietz said. “Teaching young people is immensely rewarding work, and I appreciate the chance to represent the Edwardsville Police Department at St. Boniface School.”

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