For over 20 years fifth graders in the Fulton City School District have been part of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. Fulton is the last school district in the area that still has a DARE program. City government, the school district, and the police department all believe strongly in the program and work hard to keep it going. “I support it 100%,” Mayor Ron Woodward said on the March 19th Common Council meeting when DARE was unanimously approved for another year.
Through the program, Officer Lennet Whitmore from Fulton PD educates students about anti-bullying, drug and alcohol awareness, stranger danger, and making good choices. This year the program changed and is now called Keepin’ it Real, and focuses more on the decision making aspect of DARE. “It’s about making good decisions, being a good citizen, and how to stand up to bullying,” said Whitmore.
Keepin’ it Real is based on 20 years of research and interviews with 6000 teenagers. All the stories and examples in the lessons are real and speak more closely to the teen experience than previous versions of DARE.
Another perk of DARE is the fact that a police officer is placed in a friendly environment where kids can see the police are there to help them and not to be feared. As an officer with Fulton PD Whitmore has seen first-hand the “effects and abuses” of drugs and alcohol on young people of Fulton, which influenced her decision to become the DARE officer. “I like kids, and I get the chance to teach,” she said. “I enjoy doing this.”
“You’ve all made a friend you can turn to over your next seven years at Fulton City School District,” Betsy Conners from the Superintendent’s Office told students at Volney about Whitmore. Whitmore has been the DARE officer for seven years, and is now stepping down. Officer Sophia Graves has completed the two-week intensive DARE school, and is ready to step into Whitmore’s shoes.
Granby, Lanigan, Fairgrieve, and Volney each held separate graduation ceremonies over the past week. Whitmore hosted each and guest speakers including Mayor Woodward, Fulton City Court Judge David Hawthorne, and Police Chief Orlo Green also were in attendance.
The ten week program culminated in a poster and skit writing contest. Students had to create DARE advertisement posters, showing what they learned in the program, and write skits showing examples of good decision making. Whitmore read all of them and chose winners from each school. “It’s hard!” said Whitmore. “They’re all so good.”
Poster Contest Winners:
Lanigan: Mark Tallents (grand prize), Allen Otero
Granby: Savanah Dishaw (grand prize), Kylie Ashline, Lillian Alton
Volney: Isabella Robillard (grand prize), Anna-Carole Samson, Hayden Williamson
Fairgrieve: Justice Carvey (grand prize), Jade Brownrigg, Kyle Hotaling, Devanee Sabin
Writing Contest Winners:
Lanigan: Anthony Galletta (grand prize), Brooke Palmer
Granby: Allie Nichols (grand prize), Jessica Gilmore, Savannah Tice
Volney: Mackenzie Birdsell (grand prize), Breanna Kimber, Hailey LaClaire
Fairgrieve: Rebecca Bailey (grand prize), Marcus Doran, Briana Coakley, Autumn Beechner