Photo by Dan Balmer/Peninsula Clarion Madeline Edelen, a fifth grader at Mountain View Elementary, displays her certificate after graduating the DARE program Thursday night. Edelen was one of three students chosen to read her essay at the graduation.

Photo by Dan Balmer/Peninsula Clarion Madeline Edelen, a fifth grader at Mountain View Elementary, displays her certificate after graduating the DARE program Thursday night. Edelen was one of three students chosen to read her essay at the graduation.

Students DARE to just say no

  • By DAN BALMER
  • Monday, March 10, 2014 11:51pm
  • News

Sixty-six Kenai students from Mountain View Elementary School received diplomas which confirmed their commitment to “just say no” to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.

Fifth-grade students from Martine Dikes, Renee Christensen and Rebecca Walker’s class at Mountain View graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program Thursday at a ceremony in the Kenai school gym.

DARE instructor Alex Prins, an officer with the Kenai Police Department, said the purpose of the program is to help kids develop live skills and decision making through lessons that arise in daily situations. The 10-week course not only teaches kids the dangers of drugs, but also teaches kids how to make good decisions, he said.

“Our society needs people that know how to make better decisions,” he said. “Being able to work with the school district and share teaching tools with the kids, it’s a great place to start.”

Kenai Police Chief Gus Sandahl said fifth-grade students on the verge of entering middle school are at the age when peer pressure plays a ‘significant role’ in their lives. Since the course is taught once a week, for one hour a day, in each fifth-grade class, he said it is important that the parents continue to DARE message at home.

The Kenai Police Department has been involved with teaching the DARE program within the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District for more than 20 years, Sandahl said. Next month, Kenai Police Officer Paul Cushman will begin teaching DARE to fifth-graders at Kaleidoscope School of Arts & Sciences with their graduation set for May, he said.

Prins said the Kenai Elks Lodge has been a major supporter of the program and would not be possible without their contributions.

The support of the teachers and school staff for allowing him the time to come in has been tremendous, he said. Dikes, a fifth-grade teacher at Mountain View, said the DARE program has great potential to make a positive impact for the entire community. She said the school is working on getting the kids to understand how to problem solve and DARE helps with that.

“The kids are at an age with a lot of peer pressure and things happening in the world with the things they see on TV, they are not always making good choices,” she said. “Adults don’t always make good decisions. If you don’t learn now you’re not going to learn when you turn 18.”

Dikes said having a police officer in the classroom interacting with them has a positive influence with the kids, rather than only dealing with police when in trouble. When Officer Prins leaves the class to go on a call she tells the kids, somebody probably made a poor decision.

Prins, in his third year teaching DARE, previously worked as a teen probation officer in Florida. He said his experience has made him comfortable talking with young people.

“As a probation officer I would help get kids out of trouble,” he said. “The difference in DARE is I get the opportunity to keep kids out of trouble in the first place.”

During the graduation ceremony, students from classes performed skits to demonstrate how to make sound decision making despite peer pressure. Sitting in three rows in front of the stage, each class wore a different style DARE T-shirt.

Every student needed to write a DARE essay in order to graduate. Two students from each class were selected to read their essay. Andrea Beile, from Mrs. Christensen’s class, Rain Spotted-Eagle Wong, from Mrs. Dikes and Kaya Cox, from Mrs. Walker’s class presented to the fourth grade class earlier in the day. Kristi Anderson, Herald Ochea and Madeline Edelen read their essays at the graduation ceremony.

Ochea said DARE taught him to be a good communicator. He said he doesn’t want to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol because he wants to be healthy.

Catherine Kaminski, from Mrs. Christensen’s class, said she learned a lot of valuable lessons from DARE. She said she enjoyed performing on stage. In her scene, she faced peer pressure from a friend who was offering her beer at a party, but she stayed strong and said no.

“It is important to help people out with their lives and avoid drugs, she said.

Kenai Police Sgt. Jay Sjorgen said the department’s involvement with the community starts through the DARE program.

“It’s setting a good foundation for kids to make the right choices in life and have a positive future because of it, “he said.

Reach Dan Balmer at daniel.balmer@peninsulaclarion.com

Photo by Dan Balmer/Peninsula Clarion Two fifth-grade students (Catherine Kaminski ,11, on right) from Renee Christensen's class at Mountain View Elementary perform a skit at their graduation from the DARE program Thursday night. The two were among 66 graduates from the 10-week program.

Photo by Dan Balmer/Peninsula Clarion Two fifth-grade students (Catherine Kaminski ,11, on right) from Renee Christensen’s class at Mountain View Elementary perform a skit at their graduation from the DARE program Thursday night. The two were among 66 graduates from the 10-week program.

More in News

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Statewide COVID cases continue drop

On Monday, Alaska’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people was 268.6.

Anne Zink, Alaska chief medical officer, participates in a briefing with Department of Health and Social Services officials to discuss the rise of the omicron variant of the corona virus, on Nov. 29, 2021. (screenshot)
Omicron ‘an animal of its own’

State health officials emphasize unknowns, prevention measures in wake of new coronavirus variant spread.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry carried the Together Tree, bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion, up from Wrangell where it was harvested after a brief delay due to some mechanical issues. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

Forever Dance students practice for the “Forever Christmas” annual holiday variety show at Kenai Central High School on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Remembering that we’re all in this together’

Forever Dance celebrates the holiday spirit with Christmas showcase.

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID case rate continues decline; 7 new deaths reported

The state reported 632 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska.

People sit on a float by Kendall Auto Group during the “Christmas Comes to Kenai” parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘It’s our biggest so far’

The holiday spirit is back in a big way with ‘Christmas Comes to Kenai’

Most Read