Pubdate: Tue, 17 Nov 2009
Source: Okotoks Western Wheel (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009, Okotoks Western Wheel
Author: Darlene Casten
Bookmark: (D.A.R.E.)
Bookmark: (Youth)


A decade of telling youngsters the evils of doing drugs has been the
life work of a small group of foothills residents who brought the
D.A.R.E. program to local schools.

The program is celebrating its 10th year and Jackie Chalmers, who
poured her time and effort into getting the program up and running, is
thrilled the message is still being heard.

The idea of bringing D.A.R.E. (Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education)
to the foothills was raised by a group involved in rural crime watch.
They had seed money and a vision, but they needed community support to
get the program off the ground.

"I started out on my own, beating the pavement to get the police
support," Chalmers recalls.

It wasn't always easy, she added.

"At first I was alone driving around giving presentations," she said.
"There was something inside of me that said don't give up."

Initially, not everyone bought into what D.A.R.E. was selling, she

"We were scrutinized, there was cynicism and we were questioned and
questioned and questioned," she said.

The local RCMP was interested, she said, but didn't have the resources
to send their officers to classrooms.

"They liked the idea, but felt they didn't have the staff to deal with
it," she said.

Next Chalmers started talking to local politicians to see if there was
any interest in supporting the program with ongoing funding for an
officer. Finally, she talked to local school officials to see if they
were interested in having D.A.R.E. in their schools.

After gaining interest from local schools and municipalities the DARE
Society was formed and they began meeting with all the stakeholders.
Soon after, a full-time RCMP officer who would facilitate the program
was hired through funding provided by municipalities across the foothills.

In 1999 the Foothills School Division, Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School,
and Chief Jacob Bearspaw School in Eden Valley signed on and 550 Grade
6 students got their first taste of the anti-drug and anti-bullying
curriculum offered through D.A.R.E.

"To me the most important message is teaching a child to say no," she

Often people have difficulty turning others down, whether it is drugs
or just a simple request, she said.

"My own mother didn't learn to say no until she was 60," she said.
"People would ask her to do things and even if she really didn't want
to she would say yes."

Chalmers said the success of the program is sending a consistent
message and then re-enforcing those messages. That is why the program
has since expanded to include a follow-up with Grade 8 students.

It is difficult to track the success of the program with statistics,
she said, but there are success stories seen and heard everyday by
D.A.R.E. educators.

"If we can make a difference in one kid's life, how important is that
and how do you measure that?" Chalmers said.

RCMP officer Krista Woods is now delivering the message to tweens and
teens at local schools with another part-time officer.

The program has grown and this year 15 schools and more than 1,200
students will have the D.A.R.E. curriculum.

Woods said although time passes by, the issues teenagers face mainly
remain the same.

"Still, alcohol is the number one drug of choice for teenagers and
marijuana as well," she said, adding many teenagers don't use those
drugs at all.

Over the years having a presence in schools has paid dividends, said

"Trust is building with police," she said. "I believe they are
becoming more receptive to what we are saying." 
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