DARE seeds right choices to 5th grade students

LIHU‘E — About 700 students in the fifth grade celebrated the successful completion of a 10-part Drug Awareness Resistance Education program Thursday morning during the DARE Day “graduation” at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall.

Students from 11 different elementary schools around the island completed the program, led by specially trained police officers and spanning the course of the school year. The students were greeted by Daren, the lion mascot of the DARE program.

The DARE program focuses on encouraging children to make better life choices and stand up against negative pressures after learning facts about drug and alcohol use, according to a county release.

“The more you learn, the better choices you make,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said. “When you make good choices in life, you will make a positive difference in the world.”

Bill Arakaki, the Kaua‘i Complex Area superintendent, said the DARE program started in 1983 in the Los Angeles, California area and has proven to be so good, 75 percent of schools in the nation participate in the program; DARE is also being taught in 43 countries around the world.

“This is not just about drugs,” Arakaki said. “You now have skills to handle a lot of challenges around you.”

Kaua‘i Police Chief Darryl Perry sounded off on Arakaki’s “Just Say No, Keep it Real!” chant, reiterating to students to “Just say No” to drugs and alcohol.

“Prevention is one of the most important aspects of our jobs as police officers, especially our School Resource Officers,” Perry said, being joined by Deputy Chief Michael Contrades and Assistant Chief Roy Asher in acknowledging the SRO’s including Sgt. Ken Carvalho, Officer Barry DeBlake, Officer Luke Hamberg, Sgt. Mark Ozaki and Officer Mark Stulpe, Ozaki and Hamberg igniting the enthusiastic, energetic audience with the DARE Roll Call.

Sgt. Carvalho was celebrating his final DARE Day, and was embarassed when a special plaque for his dedication of more than 10 years to the DARE program was unveiled. Perry announced that Sgt. Carvalho will be reassigned to another department in KPD.

“The Kaua‘i Police Department would like to take this opportunity to thank Sgt. Carvalho for more than a decade of service to Kaua‘i’s youth,” Contrades said, triggering a flood of students rushing forth to present the DARE Sgt with lei, thank-yous and congratulations. “We are so grateful and appreciative of all of his hard work and commitment to educating our youth in how to live a drug-free life.”

DARE programs across the state had to cut back significantly due to a loss of funding, the release states. Kaua‘i was not immune to the cutback.

“Our department has had to step up in a big way to keep this program going, and we are deeply grateful to those who that continue to donate money or their personal time year after year to keep this program alive,” Perry said in the release.

The KPD extends its mahalo and appreciation to the many volunteers, sponsors and entertainers who donate their time to the DARE Day program, notably Raymond Duarte, the Kaua‘i Community Federal Credit Union, the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall, Mark’s Place and the Rotary Club of Po‘ipu.

The DARE program was developed in 1983 as a cooperative effort of the L.A. Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District, started on Kaua‘i in 1986 and continues to have a statewide presence.

Visit www.darehawaii.org for more information.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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