Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) is an important tool for the future. Championed by the Soldotna Police Department (SPD) D.A.R.E. is an international substance abuse prevention education program that seeks to prevent use of controlled drugs, membership in gangs, and violent behavior through a series of awareness and decision making classes. The program concludes with an essay competition, “When the course work is completed each student has to write an essay to graduate. The essay is a chance for them to describe what they’ve learned in the classroom and what D.A.R.E. means to them,” explained SPD officer Brennan, the D.A.R.E. instructor this year. “We had 151 essays and graduates this year and the level of writing of these 6th graders was amazing. I couldn’t believe I was reading 6th grade writing. We chose a winner from each class that got a prize packet and “Daren” the D.A.R.E. mascot. The overall winner Airah Cude also received a new bicycle donated by the Soldotna Rotary Club,” said Brennan.
Airah Cude is a 12-year-old 6th grader at Redoubt Elementary with a command of writing beyond her years and grade level. According to Officer Brennan it was the best D.A.R.E. essay he has ever read and brought the seasoned law enforcement officer to tears on stage. In part Airah’s essay read, “A lot of children would never recognize drug abuse unless something happened in their life if it wasn’t for programs like D.A.R.E. I learned the hard way. In 2012 my uncle passed away due to an over-dose of heroin. To this day I still remember what I was wearing, where I was and the hurt and pain in my dad’s eyes when he told my sisters and me. It was so heartbreaking to see someone I love, look up to and go to when I am hurting, so upset himself. My 25 year old was gone forever. I could barely sleep or eat. Every day I had this huge lump in my throat. Whenever I heard his name or something reminded me of him, I just wanted to burst into tears. He was not a bad guy. He was a fun uncle, he was a good brother and a loved son with a big heart. What happens when you do drugs is you get addicted and cannot stop. It happens to good people too. I still see the heartbreak in my family’s eyes like it happened yesterday. I think it never ends. Anyone who ever said life was easy has never faced a hardship. I will never touch drugs, I have witnessed what it does to people and the ones that love them,” at this point in her essay Airah’s voice chocked and Officer Brennan finished reading the rest of her winning essay, the conclusion of which drew a spontaneous standing ovation from students, teachers and parents gathered in the SoHi auditorium.
In an interview following the ceremony Airah said, “I really hope my essay will help others choose not to do drugs because it’s really rough on anyone that’s close to them, it’s hard especially at such a young age.” Airah’s essay concluded, “The D.A.R.E. decision making model can be helpful in more areas in your life than just making the choice not to use drugs, I can help you make safe and responsible choices. Thank you Officer Brennan for all you do to make a difference!”