Pubdate: Tue, 01 Mar 2005
Source: Ladysmith-Chemanius Chronicle (CN BC)
Copyright: 2005 BC Newspaper Group & New Media
Author: Edward Hill
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)


With a broad smile, Ladysmith RCMP Constable Ian McKenzie shows off essays 
written on green sheets of paper from his first graduating class. The 
slightly wobbly handwriting is indicative of young children, but each is 
crystal clear in its message.

"If somebody offers me drugs I will walk away," reads one. "I do not want 
to smoke pot or drink alcohol," says another with disarming certainty.

For the kids of Kuper Island, the essays are a kind of permanent record of 
a greater awareness; a benchmark step to a healthy life. Every two weeks 
for the past four months, McKenzie taught 16 Grade 5 to 7 Penelakut First 
Nation students the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, program. It's 
the first time he's taught the course and the first time it's been offered 
on Kuper. In fact, to his dismay, it's the first time it's been taught in 
the Ladysmith area at all.

"DARE is unknown to lots of people, but every school should be doing this," 
McKenzie said. "The drug problem is getting worse everywhere."

Thankfully, the program is a little more sophisticated than just a "drugs 
are bad" mantra. Kids are taught the physical effects of drugs and alcohol, 
but more importantly, how to recognize and resist peer pressure. It's about 
understanding the consequences of choices, McKenzie said.

Students work through scenarios such as aggressive drug dealers or friends 
indulging in substance abuse or smoking. Parents get involved to better 
understand the threats their children face and to learn strategies to 
better deal with risky behaviour.

"We did roll playing and skits on topics to develop understanding," he 
said. "A lot of diffusing situations if someone offered drugs, for example. 
Ways to get out of pressure situations."

Even the ubiquitous influences of the media were dissected. Television 
commercials, for instance, glamourize drinking, but usually don't show 
negative consequences such as alcoholism.

"The fact is kids are exposed to advertising from a young age that drinking 
is cool," McKenzie said. "Sometimes its not obvious to kids to make the 
connections as to the impact of the media."

The DARE program targets pre-teens because, as parents can attest, budding 
teenagers can be a right belligerent bunch. "We start talking to 10-year 
olds because there's still a chance to get through," he said. "When they 
turn to their teens, they won't listen to anyone."

McKenzie started the program on Kuper Island because police presence has 
been admittedly thin since the tribal police disbanded. In this instance, 
the DARE program played a dual role: teaching kids important social skills 
and allowing McKenzie to have consistent time in the community.

And as a first time instructor, he came off pretty well. It wasn't nerve 
wracking, the kids were receptive and parents were appreciative, McKenzie 

"We are going to make sure every kid from Kuper graduates from this. Over 
time, it will have a significant impact," he said. "This is the one thing 
in our job that is proactive."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom