Guest column: DARE enjoys milestones of service

Guest writer DeMercurio is in the second row from bottom, third from right, at the Drug Enforcement Agency training center in Virginia with the National DARE Youth Advisory Board.

Guest writer DeMercurio is in the second row from bottom, third from right, at the Drug Enforcement Agency training center in Virginia with the National DARE Youth Advisory Board.

By Mariana DiMercurio

Naples

Junior, St. John Neumann High School

National DARE Youth Advisory Board Member

Today’s teenagers have devoted an entire day to walking down memory lane; it’s better known as Throwback Thursday.

By posting pictures from our past on social media sites like Instagram, we are able to share some of our best memories with our friends. It’s an automatic recall of our early years and a fun way to appreciate important events and people in our life along the way.

With Red Ribbon Week around the corner, my “throwback” thoughts took me to my fifth grade when I was part of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. It’s a memory that I share with generations of fifth graders throughout Collier County.

Today, the elementary school program is called DARE Keepin’ It REAL. REAL is an acronym for Refuse, Explain, Avoid and Leave. The lessons focus on more than just drugs, but good decision-making.

Back then, Corporal Wayne Brooks of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office was my DARE officer. I can still recall his easy-going style like it was yesterday. Each week students would read from scenarios in a workbook and discuss different ways to handle important situations. At 10 and 11 years old, most students would never think of using drugs or alcohol. At this age, we often listen to the advice of our DARE officer, teachers and parents and eagerly pledge to remain drug- and alcohol-free.

As a student now in high school, I can honestly say that most students my age have kept this pledge and are still drug-free. However, I am also saddened to admit that some students have foolishly abandoned these important promises.

Each time I see someone wearing a DARE t-shirt or see a DARE bumper sticker on a car, I am reminded about these important decision-making lessons and I’m glad to know that fifth-graders in our area still have the same opportunity.

With the tide of individuals, groups and even states which have given up on keeping kids drug-free, I am proud to live in a community that has kept its’ commitment to local students for so many years.

This year, the DARE program celebrates 20 years in Collier County, and 30 years as a national program that began in Los Angeles.

I thank all the DARE officers working to make a difference in our community. I believe that the work you do is even more important now.

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