HARRISON, N.Y. Louis M. Klein Middle School's sixth-graders graduated from the DARE program Friday afternoon, the first class in Harrison to do so since the program returned to the district in the middle school.
The town used to have six full-time youth officers but cut that to only one part-time DARE officer because of budget issues over the years, Police Chief Anthony Marraccini said. Marraccini said that when his son was 9 and DARE had been cut, the boy was disappointed because he genuinely wanted to take part.
"It wasn't just because he saw that his brother got a hat," Marraccini said. "When I look around and see the smiles on the kids faces and their parents supporting them, it shows me what community is all about."
Graduates Sarah Birnbaum, Ismael Galvez, Sarah Karkout and Ari Helibrunn read essays they wrote. Sarah said DARE taught her not only about the dangers of drugs and alcohol but also ways to avoid making bad decisions.
"I learned that you have to appear confident and not go to places where people drink or smoke," she said. "DARE taught me to avoid these situations and be as safe as I can be."
The easy part of the DARE program is over, Mayor Ron Belmont said. The hard part will come if the students find themselves in a situation they learned about.
"At some point, you will be pressured to use drugs," Belmont said. "Remember how to say no respectfully and be strong-willed."
Moving the program from fifth grade to sixth grade gave the school an opportunity to implement some of the core values of the LMK community, Principal Scott Fried said. The DARE program enriches everyone, he said.
"We are teaching our kids to be good citizens of the town, community and the world at large," Fried said.
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