Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jan 2004
Source: Chillicothe Gazette (OH)
Copyright: 2004 Chillicothe Gazette
Author: Claire Cahoon
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)


LATHAM -- Fifth- and sixth-graders at Parker Elementary made an
important promise Thursday.

They pledged to stay drug and alcohol free as a part of their
graduation from the school's DARE -- or Drug Abuse Resistance
Education -- program.

"This program made me realize how bad drugs are and how easy it is to
be addicted to them," sixth-grader Jamie Humphrey said, reading her
winning DARE essay to the group. "Thanks Lt. King."

Lt. Tom King from the Pike County Sheriff's Office was the VIP of the
day. A DARE officer for 13 years, graduation is a special moment of
seeing hard work pay off.

"Even though I'm only with them for nine weeks, I really bond with
them," King said. "I'll miss them."

Students flocked to hug King after the program, getting photos with
him and chatting. During graduation, King asked for volunteers to help
him demonstrate how to "say no." A sea of hands launch into the air.

In a skit, King approached group of students and offered them drugs.
In unison, they all turned and shouted.

"No, thanks!"

"I had a great time with you guys," King told his students. "You've
been super. I know that if you gather all the facts, you're going to
make the right choice."

The graduation ceremony was even more special with the touch of
celebrity. For the fourth year in a row, the reigning Miss Ohio came
to Parker to help students stay drug and alcohol free.

"I didn't have DARE when I was a child," said Miss Ohio Janelle Cook.
"It's such a wonderful program."

Cook sang several jazz songs for the kids and helped King congratulate
each graduate. Every child got a certificate of achievement from DARE
and an autographed photo of Cook as a memento.

When asked why she found the time to visit Parker, Cook's answer was

"Are you kidding? This is awesome," she said. "Anytime I get to speak
with kids, it's a great opportunity. I think it's wonderful for the
kids to see someone older who's obviously made good decisions."

The words of Parker's DARE kids rang with sincerity as students read
their essays about what they are taking away from the program.

"My skills are to be the best person I can in going through these
problems and keeping the word 'no' in my mind when it comes to drugs,"
sixth-grader Dylan Cook said. "I know there's a lot more to life than
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