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West Fargo D.A.R.E. offers important life skills

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During the past 13 years the West Fargo Police Department has taught the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in elementary classrooms. This fall, about half of the fifth grade students will get to participate in D.A.R.E. The rest will start in January 2010.

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Officer Stacy Dawkins began teaching the program in 1996. Officer Eric Wiinanen took over in 1999, after serving three years on the street as a patrol officer. The D.A.R.E. position is a unique one as it allows the D.A.R.E. officer an opportunity to spend extended time in the schools with students, teaching them important life skills.

The D.A.R.E. program began in Los Angeles in the early 1980s when drugs and gangs were out of control. As the program had a positive impact in the communities in California, school districts and law enforcement from around the United States began using it in their schools. Now D.A.R.E. is taught in 75 percent of school districts in the U.S. and in 43 countries around the world.

D.A.R.E. emphasizes the importance of good decision making skills. Topics include: tobacco, underage drinking, marijuana, inhalants, prescription and over the counter drug abuse, bullying, tobacco and alcohol advertising, good friends, and other subjects.

Thousands of West Fargo students have graduated from D.A.R.E. In an essay one graduate wrote, "The D.A.R.E. program has taught me many different things. It taught me how to say no and walk away. It also taught me that you need to be able to make decisions on your own. What I have learned in D.A.R.E. will help me the rest of my life." Many students have not just learned about the facts of drugs, but have understood how it would affect them and how that is not something they want for their future.

The D.A.R.E. Public Service Announcement (PSA) project is an additional activity that students can volunteer for. It gives these students a chance to put together an important drug free message for area youth. These D.A.R.E. PSAs are broadcasted on local television and cable stations for about six months. Officer Wiinanen works with the students on these committees to help them come up with the idea, pick actors, and film and edit the production. The concepts for the PSAs come from the students.

If you have any questions about the D.A.R.E. program, contact D.A.R.E. Officer Eric Wiinanen at (701) 356-3804. Also visit www.dare.com for more information.

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