Skaha Lake Middle School Grade 6 students had an early graduation of sorts, thanks to a special program delivered by the RCMP.
Const. Kate Hansen, along with fellow Penticton police officers, handed out graduation certificates to 145 students who completed the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program on Wednesday morning.
“It is a very personal thing. I have kids myself and I want to make sure they are safe and can manage their choices the best most safe and responsible manner that they can,” said Hansen. “It does take a community to raise a child and the more help you can give them to handle stress, to handle bullying and to understand what is out there. There are people that are really invested in this … people really want the kids to know they are supported in this community.”
The interactive, 10-week program teaches students to make safe and responsible choices. The elementary curriculum helps children by developing basic, core skills needed for making safe and responsible choices and includes classes on self-awareness and management, responsible decision making, understanding others, relationship and communication skills, bullying, helping others and understanding and reducing stress.
Hansen, who has taught the program for over 20 years, said the curriculum underwent a revamp in 2014 to move towards a decision-making model that she said is more applicable than the ‘Just Say No’ messaging that didn’t work. Hansen said children are much more aware of social issues and challenges nowadays.
“I grew up in Penticton and I had absolutely no idea, but they see it now. They walk down Main Street and smell marijuana and see kids smoking so they’re aware of it. The cyber-bullying has taken off, the stuff they see on TV now — they are very aware and they want somebody to talk frankly with them and we discuss everything. Nothing is off the table so they are able to understand what is happening and learn how to make safe choices around those decisions.”
Grade 6 student Ethan Byers said he took a lot of information away from the program.
Students had to write an essay to graduate from the program, which Byers said helped him realize how he could avoid a situation that he faced in the past. He added that he also learned some other valuable lessons.
“Not to do drugs and alcohol. Also, if you every get offered drugs or alcohol just make a lie about having to help out your parents or tell them you have something else to do.”
The program was also taught at Holy Cross and Outma schools. Hansen said she hopes that word spreads about how great the new programming is and most of the schools in the district will implement it next year.