A class of 52 Myrtle Philip Elementary DARE students have graduated with confidence, knowledge and a little voice inside their heads whispering "I have the power."
Drug Abuse Resistance Education, DARE, was started in the late ’80s by former Los Angeles police chief, Daryl Gates.
The program’s mandate is to provide support, assistance and information to students in Grades 5 and 6, to try to keep them drug-free and healthy.
Whistler RCMP bought into the DARE program in January, paying for one member of the force to receive training to become Officer DARE.
Cst. Warren Tomalty, a father of three young boys, and who heads crime prevention and community policing in Whistler, was the chosen to be Officer DARE.
Tomalty, points out to students that the use of illegal drugs is always abuse, and that legal drugs can be abused too, to the point where their use is illegal. He also brings to the students’ attention, that tobacco and alcohol which are legal for adults, are illegal for students and therefore, any use of these by the students amounts to drug abuse.
"This is the first group to get this course in Whistler," says Tomalty, who claims that DARE is one of the most exciting thing he’s ever done in his career. "It helps empower them to say no, and to develop the ability to reason out why not to."
Mayor Hugh O’Reilly was present at the ceremony June 15, to award students their diplomas.
"Whistler is fortunate to have someone like Cst. Tomalty, who has dedicated so much of his personal time to the program," said O’Reilly.
The students who received DARE made a presentation of short skits and speeches to the community and Tomalty, demonstrating what they’ve learned.
Alexandria Brown-Munz in her speech promised not to do drugs because "They screw up your head and I want to be a lawyer or a real estate agent and you can’t do that with a background in drug use."
"The program does give the kids more power over themselves," says Janet Penny, a Grade 5 teacher at Myrtle Philip Community School. "It’s really hard for kids to say no. Some kids can decide for themselves, but others are undecided and are sitting on the fence on the issue. It’s good to have someone of authority, as well as parents and the community involved."
The DARE program encompasses 40 nations, stretching from El Salvador, to Chile, Norway and Iceland. DARE has four foreign training centres, located in Canada, England, Costa Rica and the Philippines.