Grade 6 students at Skaha Lake Middle School graduate from an anti-drug abuse program

DARE to resist drugs

Grade six students celebrated graduation from their 10-week Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) course at Skaha Lake Middle School on Friday, a program that encourages students to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives.

The course works to teach the young teenagers to start making safe and responsible choices before they head to high school.

Kate Hansen, a Penticton retired RCMP sergeant, has been leading the program for the last few years and believes it's the best way to connect kids with the knowledge they need.

“They're going to be hit with a lot of drug and alcohol, vaping questions, bullying issues, you know, so really teaching them to make sound responsible decisions and being able to talk about their problems when they come up,” she explained.

“It's twofold. At grade six, they are starting to see issues regarding drugs and alcohol and have a much better understanding about what the issues are. They look at adults with vaping and smoking, and they have a lot of questions at that age.”

Hansen added that at 12, the Youth Criminal Justice Act comes into play.

“So somebody might have stolen a chocolate bar at 10, there would be no repercussions and nothing serious. At 12, with the Youth Criminal Justice Act, children then should be charged with the crime of theft. So they need to understand the seriousness of this age, that they're able to reason for it by the courts. So that's why I bring it in.”

In a usual year, kids graduating from DARE will have a ceremony in the gym with a show of support from police officers and the police dog services, along with parents and grandparents in attendance to watch. This year due to the pandemic, celebrations were held in their individual classroom.

“But we're trying to make up for that by extra prizes and some cupcakes and the kids have been wonderful. They're just very happy that we actually got to come in this year.”

Many of the Grade six students involved in the program read essays they prepared to their class about what they’ve learned.

Hansen believes the program does make an impact.

“I do, I have a 15 year old daughter, so she went through the DARE program three years ago and we have very good conversations about what's happening at high school. She tells me about her friends, sharing that the things that they’ve learned at grade six resonate when people are asking them to vape or do other things.”

“It's so important to give our youth every chance they can to succeed. You know, teenage years are tough, high school is tough. So I think if we can help them navigate that, make some good choices, learn the importance of talking about your problems, and go to trusted people that helps through that. I don't think we can help our youth enough.”

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