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Chief of Police John Gavallas (left) stands with Officer Jeff Desena, SRO at Watertown High School, who will teach the revitalized D.A.R.E. program to sixth graders at Swift Middle School this year. (Perugini photo).

WATERTOWN — The Watertown Police Department has begun to revitalize and reinstitute the Drug Abuse Resistance Program, or D.A.R.E., which is designed to make students aware of the dangers of drug abuse.

Officer Jeff Desena has been chosen to teach the program to sixth graders at Swift Middle School.

The D.A.R.E. program makes a return to Watertown public education after more than a decade of absence. The program has gone through a revitalization in the past few years to help deal with the changing national climate when it comes to drug abuse.

The program now focuses more on encouraging kids to make smart decisions and avoid getting into situations where drugs and other harmful substances are available.

Students are taught how to think critically and voice their opinions if they are caught in a bad situation.

Officer Desena will engage the students with role playing scenarios, group discussions, cooperative activities and ask questions that promote students to think for themselves. Standard PowerPoint presentations, homework pages and curriculum guides will also be present during each class.

“Each kid has their own story,” said Officer Desena. He believes it is important to keep students engaged in discussion when it comes to dealing with drug abuse.

Officer Desena completed more than 80 hours of training in the span of two weeks this summer, to become certified to teach D.A.R.E.

The class he took included police officers and military officers from across the Northeast.

He was inspired by the program and is passionate about making sure the messages of D.A.R.E. are taught to Watertown students.

Officer Desena is also the school resource officer at Watertown High School and hopes that as the program continues throughout the years, he will get to know the students better and be able to help students when they face difficult decisions when they reach high school.

Police Chief John Gavallas expressed the importance of this program to help better community relations and allow greater trust between the town’s youth and law enforcement.

“It’s a big step forward with department outreach,” he said.

The first D.A.R.E. class with Officer Desena started last week. He plans for all 270 students of Swift’s sixth grade class go through the program by May.

The D.A.R.E. program is still in its early stages, but Chief Gavallas and Officer Desena hope to eventually expand the program to Watertown High School where more serious discussions about drug abuse can take place.

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