We've long relied on police officers to protect us and generally uphold the law. They've also been playing an important role in the schools for the last decade. It's all a part of DARE, the Drug Abuse Resistance program. It's changing lives all over the country and right here at home.
Since DARE started in the schools, officers have been arming hundreds of young people all over the Coastal Empire and Low Country with the tools they need to live a drug-free life. "Fifth graders have been told not to use drugs, but not why," said instructor Lt. Scott Brunson. "Here we teach eight ways to say no, but we also actually teach students the consequences of using drugs."
"We teach nonviolence and how to be assertive and a variety of different things," added instructor Lisa Darby.
"We're not just talking about drugs. We're talking about life skills self-control," said Capt. Lee Harris. "Talking about stress. Talking about self-esteem, things like that."
And the students get it. In fact, since DARE started nearly 20 years ago, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of school-aged students using drugs, about 40 percent fewer throughout the country.
The students are committed to the program. You may not think of cloth and foam rubber as weapons in the war against drugs, but many instructors do, in the form of DARE mascot costumes. In fact, two years ago, a Lyons officer was feeling pretty discouraged when his program couldn't afford one. But his students came to the rescue. They surprised him by raising the money to donate the costume for the program.
"The excitement of the high school students to get enthusiastic over this lets me know we're doing something right with the DARE program," said Dep. Bobby Smith.
This commitment to giving young people the foundation they need for a good start in life makes the DARE officers part of the WTOC Community Spirit.
DARE normally lasts anywhere from nine to 14 weeks and the students and officers say it's a life-changing experience.