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Episode 20: D.A.R.E. to Be Different

You may have heard about the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, better known as D.A.R.E., but do you know what the program really does for kids in our schools these days?

In this episode of the Supercast, we talk to West Jordan Police about bringing D.A.R.E. back, how it is impacting young lives and proving to students that police are more than emergency first-responders. They are our friends as well.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Today we look inside the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, better known to most parents and students as DARE. It is a program that has evolved over the years, empowering students to respect themselves and others, to make healthy choices in life and to rely on something called "their helping it work". First let's head over to Terra Linda Elementary school, where West Jordan police just finished a DARE graduation ceremony, and we had the opportunity to speak with some graduates. So tell me your name.

Student:
My name's Nancy Ali.

Superintendent:
What grade are you in?

Student:
Fifth.

Superintendent:
And you just completed the DARE program here at Terra Linda Elementary. What did you think of it?

Student:
I thought it was really fun. And especially since I won the DARE essay.

Superintendent:
Yeah, we got to hear your essay. That was really awesome. Tell us some of what you read to the audience.

Student
I wrote to them about bullying and about how we shouldn't do drugs and what drugs can do to you. I told them we should all be just be friends and be kind to each other. And I told them about how happy I was with this DARE program and that Officer Kim was there to support us and let us have this big opportunity today.

Superintendent:
Tell us about Officer Kim. What she liked?

Student:
Officer Kim is a really happy lady. She's never quiet or scared to do anything or say anything. She's always positive and she helps us out a lot. She makes us happy and she gives us stickers, high fives and hugs.

Superintendent:
That's a really good combination. Is she someone that you look up to?

Student:
Officer Kim's one of my heroes.

Superintendent:
That's really cool. Tell me about the help network. I saw drawings at the back of the room and the big banner. What does that mean?

Student:
So the help network is someone that matters to you and who's always there for you. Someone who just cares about you and they can get help with. I picked my two best friends. Their names are  Millie and Bryn. Bryn is just a girl that's really positive is not scared. She's tough and she stands up for herself. Millie's just a funny dork and she likes to exercise a lot and get her energy out. And then I'm just the one that gets scared a lot.

Superintendent:
So it's nice to have friends and Officer Kim who help teach you to kind of stand up for yourself and be yourself.

Student:
Officer Kim is a good officer. And also, I also wanted to thank my teacher, Mr. Pascoe, and our other teachers, Ms. Snowball, Mr. Barber and Mr. Grinch and everyone that's in my class and almost everyone that's in my grade and everyone who was here today.

Superintendent:
I've seen some of your teachers in action. I know some of them over the years and they really are great teachers in this grade.

Student:
Yeah.

Superintendent:
Okay. Thanks very much for talking with us. Have a great day.

Another DARE graduation was held at Mountain Shadows Elementary school. That's where we caught up with Sergeant Jay.

Officer:
Yeah. We are excited. We've revitalized the DARE program here within West Jordan. We have 17 elementary schools in West Jordan city, which is a huge number of elementary schools. The DARE programs focus on the fifth graders of each school and we talk to them. It's a program about prevention and boundaries and healthy lifestyles and choices. Anti-bullying, there's many benefits. Those are just the core areas that we have been teaching. DARE also has several other core areas that involve mentoring and being a good friend, even down to suicide prevention and things like that. So we're just excited to have this program back. We were able to secure some grant money, which enabled us to have three DARE positions this year as a pilot program to start.

I'm currently the supervisor over that program. And it's my interest to hopefully see this program grow and bring some public awareness to it, on how much of a benefit it is to our elementary school children. And hopefully, we can increase and allocate more resources to put into this for the District, for the kids.

Superintendent:
I have to say, we're here at Mountain Shadows Elementary for a DARE graduation. And I've attended a lot of these over the years and the enthusiasm of the kids is really fun to see, and it does empower them. It gives them some tools that you referenced, to give them a higher level of social and emotional wellness. We've been focused on that a lot lately as a District and as a society.

Officer:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we talk a lot today in the back of this graduation. I know that this is an audio interview, but one of the things that you can see, these kids have drawn their circles of support network, their health network that they have. And it's fun to go through and read those that the kids have put. Some of those are their friends. Some of those are police and fire. Some of those are their pets at home. But just helping the kids recognize that they have a help network, they have a support network and that we as police officers and school officials are part of that help network, or that we should be, so that those kids can rely on us to answer questions they have. We spend a large amount of time with these kids every day at schools and they need to be able to know that they can utilize some of those professionals in their lives for part of that help network. And I just think that it's a really cool gesture. It's a small gesture, frankly, of what the program offers, just a glimpse into it. So great things happening.

Superintendent:
I love the concept of the circles and the help network and being deliberate about thinking about who can help you, in advance of when there are problems.

Officer:
Yeah, for sure. Oftentimes, we don't know. We deal with children sometimes that don't know that they can utilize certain aspects of that help network, such as police. And that is one thing that the DARE program is great for. It teaches kids that we're a resource for them, not something to be feared, not something to be afraid of, but something that should be familiar to them. Hopefully where they see us, they don't see us and equate that with "Oh, there's trouble" or something like that. We're here as a support system for them

Superintendent:
Right. Kids viewing police officers as a support and as a help and as a positive is a great benefit of the program. And I have to say, as I walked into the school, three different people said how excited they are to have the DARE program back and to have you guys here in schools,

Officer:
For sure. We've received very positive feedback. We're appreciative of that. I am appreciative of the officers that I supervise that are administering this program. They're very busy. certainly, I would say that our staffing is at a minimal level right now in this pilot portion of the program, but we hope to expand and grow and allocate more resources. Of course, that comes challenges as there are many different aspects of policing we're working on right now, to spread resources out.

Superintendent:
I think that we all can relate with that, but we're very excited to be back in the schools with this program.

Officer:
Well, we're grateful for this new focus, for the support you give us in so many ways. Just with a wide variety of issues that come your way and come our way. And it's a great relationship and thanks for everything you're doing. I appreciate it.

Superintendent:
Thank you. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we'll hear more from students in the DARE program and from Officer Kim Welty who teaches there and is devoted to empowering kids to do the right thing.

McKinley Withers:
Do you want ideas for being happier and healthier? I'm McKinley Withers, Health and Wellness Specialist for Jordan School District. Please join us every week for Wellness Wednesday. It's a feature on the Jordan school District website that offers free and simple tips for improving your health and wellness. We cover a variety of topics to help families like reducing stress, improving eating habits, finding more time to build relationships, and increasing overall happiness. Check out Wellness Wednesday every week on the Jordan School District website jordandistrict.org. For additional health and wellness resources, visit wellness.jordandistrict.org.

Superintendent:
Welcome back. We're talking about the DARE program and what students walk away with when they graduate. And we're about to meet the very popular Officer Kim who teaches DARE. Tell me your name.

Student:
Isaac.

Superintendent:
You've just graduated from DARE, right?

Superintendent:
Yes. You're a fifth grader here at Terra Linda Elementary. Tell us about what you learned in the DARE program.

Student:
We learned a few things about drug facts and health effects and a few things about bullying.

Superintendent:
What are some of the things you learned about responsibility?

Student:
How to respect others and also treat others how you want to be treated.

Superintendent:
What about drug facts and smoking and other things you learned about not particularly in that order?

Student:
One of the things is we try to stay off of that stuff is because it can also lead to death.

Superintendent:
It's very dangerous. How about bullying? What did you learn about bullying and treating other people?

Student:
The different types of bullying, like cyber bullying and physical bullying, and just how to stop that stuff.

Superintendent:
What are some of the other things that you liked about the DARE program?

Student:
Officer Kim was really nice.

Superintendent:
Tell me more about Officer Kim. I've heard a lot about her.

Student:
She is really kind and she listened to what we had questions about and stuff like that.

Superintendent:
Did going through the DARE program, give you a different perspective or thought about police officers?

Student:
Yeah. Uh, normally I thought police officers just helped out with traffic and stuff like that. But now I heard that they do like all sorts of different things.

Superintendent:
Are they friendly?

Student:
Yes.

Superintendent:
What do you think of Officer Kim?

Student:
She's a good teacher.

Superintendent:
I can tell. What do you think of officer Kim?

Student:
She's the best.

Superintendent:
Well, that's good. That's good. What's that? You don't want the other officers to feel bad.

Student:
She's the nicest.

Superintendent:
So DARE is back in West Jordan and Officer Kim is here with me. She is the teacher at the two schools whose graduation I've just attended. I heard a lot of really nice things about you from kids today. What do you think of this program and what is it like working with these kids?

Officer:
I love this program. The kids have, I don't even know how to explain it. Like overwhelming. You start off thinking it's going to be one way and it just spirals out of control with goodness. It's beautiful. The kids are amazing. They're so warm and welcoming. They want so much to be part of our lives and for officers to get to know them and they want to share. They want to tell us how much they know and they're smart and they're beautiful. It's just amazing. It's wonderful.

Superintendent:
I've been really impressed with how articulate all of the kids are about the program, about the things that you've taught. It's really interesting because you don't always see that happen in the classroom, despite our best efforts. But boy, they are all conversant in the aspects of the DARE program. Why do you think that is?

Officer:
Well, I have to give a lot of it too, back to the kids cause they really are smarter, bigger and better than we can imagine. They really are. They are the best of all of us, and then some. And then I'll give myself a little bit of credit, by just repeating things. I repeat things and repeat things and repeat things to them that I find super important and that I know are important to them, by how quiet they get in class, how they'll get a look on their face when something means something to them. And that will tell me, this is a topic that's important to these guys. So we'll spend a little more time on those aspects of it. I like to just watch the kids and see what's important to them.

Superintendent:
I love that. The look on their faces. I miss that look on their faces. I'm not in the classroom anymore, but it's really fun when you see that connection. And obviously you are making that connection a lot. Participating in the DARE program is probably the most interaction they've had with an officer at this point. What is the value of being able to create that positive relationship?

Officer:
Well, as part of the DARE program, our final lesson was the health network and it is talking about those additional people in our lives that are there for us. And I really wanted to showcase police officers and their relationships to us or the ones they can have with us. I want them to know that we're here and we're not off limits. And I feel like that they take the time to see that, and the more that we take the time to reach out to one of them or talk to one of them, then they're going to realize that we're not off limits. We're not the bad guys. We really do care so much and we want to be there for him. I think it'll just help their relationships. I think there'll be less afraid when they see one. They don't know.

Superintendent:
I agree. I've loved looking at the pictures of the help networks on the back wall. It kind of makes me want to be sure that I'm someone that would be included in a lot of help networks because it's very touching to read the descriptions.

Officer:
It is. And I, when I presented to them, "Hey, let's find one person in your life that's part of that help network," it blew me away how beautiful and creative they were. Some of them even put their pets on there because we talked about how much or how important our pets are to us as part of our help network, right down to their best friend who is always there for them. Every single person has somebody different. That's important to them. And it's important for them to remember  and to think about, "Oh yeah, I do have somebody. I'm not alone."

Superintendent:
Exactly.

Officer:
I can really imagine people thinking the kids realizing, "Hey, wait, I really do have some people in my corner, so many people I can pick" and that's right. I have a lot to pick from, more than I thought. And it's really more of a help network, even because when we're connected with others, that's how we can be healthy. That's how we can feel safe and secure.

Superintendent:
Yeah, very much. Okay. Thank you very much. Officer Kim, it's a pleasure meeting you. Thanks to everyone who works so hard to support students in our schools. We appreciate the partnership with West Jordan, South Jordan, Riverton and Herriman Police Departments, all offering DARE in Jordan District Schools. It's a program that builds a healthy relationship with police and empowers kids to make healthy choices.

Thanks as always to all of you for listening. And remember, education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see out there.

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