In late April, I attended the graduation for the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program at White Oak Elementary School. The DARE program has been important to all fifth graders at White Oak Elementary for many years. I am proud to say that the Town of Emerald Isle sponsors the DARE program at White Oak and Lt. Jeff Waters of the Emerald Isle Police Department teaches the program over an eight week period.
Jeff gets a lot of satisfaction from teaching the program and puts a lot of effort into being prepared. To be certified as a DARE instructor requires intensive training and yearly updates. To be successful, it requires someone with a lot of desire to reach the kids and Jeff is certainly a great person for the job. It has gotten to the point now that younger kids look forward to being in the fifth grade so they can be in the program.
The program teaches the students about the negative aspects of drugs, alcohol, and gangs. At the end of the program, each student writes a paper about what they learned and some times about related situations in their own lives. There were about 140 graduates and each student had to orally present their paper in order to graduate. Jeff said he enjoyed listening to all of them and six were selected to read their essays at graduation. Those essays were great and they weren’t just one pagers. They were all at least 4-5 pages.
There were six classes and each class selected a role model for their class. The role models along with essay winners went on a field trip the next day. They visited the Emerald Isle Police Department, the Coast Guard Station in Atlantic Beach (actually went out on a Coast Guard boat), the county jail in Beaufort, and met with the Assistant District Attorney in one of the court rooms. I am sure they learned a lot and the highlight of the day was probably lunch at Golden Coral.
The guest speaker was Phillip Panzarella. He experienced personal tragedy in his own family due to drugs and alcohol about 15 years ago. I have heard the story many times, and each time, it is very emotional. The DARE program was great and Phil’s talk was a great end to the program to illustrate how destructive drugs and alcohol can be.
White Oak Elementary is a wonderful school. It is a great example of teachers, parents, students, administration, volunteers, and local governments working together for the benefit of the kids. Thanks to everyone involved for the great environment.