GrCo fifth graders complete D.A.R.E. program

Frist D.A.R.E. class in the district since 2005

The students didn’t process in and out to music and they didn’t toss mortarboards into the air, but the Greene County class of 2026’s graduation from the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program Friday had most of the other elements of commencement exercises.

D.A.R.E. instructor Caleb Jans

This year’s fifth grade class is the first class since 2005 to have the D.A.R.E. program at school. Greene County sheriff’s deputy Caleb Jans spearheaded the effort to bring D.A.R.E. to the students. He did most of the organizational work and trained to be a D.A.R.E. instructor as a Jefferson police officer. He left the JPD to join the sheriff’s office late in 2018, and he taught the class as a deputy.

The program is a collaboration of the sheriff’s office and the Jefferson PD, the Greene County school district, parents and the community.

The D.A.R.E. program is used in 75 percent of the schools in the country and in 43 other countries. The goal of the program is to help students learn how to resist peer pressure and live productive, drug- and violence- free lives.

The program also strives to show law enforcement officers in a helping role and not just an enforcement role.

The classes met twice a week for 10 weeks.

Guest speaker Greene County attorney Thomas Laehn

Greene County attorney Thomas Laehn was guest speaker for the graduation ceremony. He reminded the students of the conversation he had as a speaker in the fifth grade social studies classes. They learned our form of government is a republic the guarantees freedoms, but with the freedoms come responsibilities.

He said fifth grade is an ideal time for the D.A.R.E. program because that’s the age at which students start making their own decisions about who they’ll be as adults. He told a story illustrating that each of them holds their life in the own hands.

“You as fifth graders will make decisions about who you want to be, they type of life you want to live. Hopefully the instruction you received with deputy Jans you learned about how choices about drugs and illegal substances can ruin your lives,” Laehn said.

He also talked about art projects. “The greatest work of art you’ll ever make is your own life. At the end of your life, who you are, the person you have become, will be a work of art.” He likened decision-making to chiseling a statue. “At the end of your life you’re going to have a statue. It’s going to be you. It will be a work of art that you have created with your name on it. The decisions you start making now as fifth graders will effect that final work of art.”

Principal Shawn Zanders read each student’s name as they stepped forward to receive their certificates of completion.

The students finished the program writing five-paragraph essays about what they had learned and how they’ll use the information and skills in their decision-making. The writer of the best essay in each base camp (home room) received a framed copy of their essay and a D.A.R.E. teddy bear.

Winners were Aden Bardole, William Graham, Savannah Lansman and Breanna Ades.

Writers of the top essays in each fifth grade base camp were (from left) Aden Bardole, William Graham, Savannah Lansman and Breanna Ades. Also pictured are D.A.R.E. instructor deputy Caleb Jans, assistant Jefferson police chief Heath Enns, sheriff Jack Williams, and chief deputy Nathaniel Chapman.

The students were treated to refreshments after the ceremony. Many of them also had their pictures taken with Deputy Jans and the other law officers at the graduation.

Most of the D.A.R.E. graduates, the Greene County graduating class of 2026, with (front, from left) sheriff Jack Williams, assistant Jefferson police chief Heath Enns, and D.A.R.E. instructor deputy Caleb Jans.
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