D.A.R.E | Courtesy Photo

D.A.R.E | Courtesy Photo

The Rexburg Police Department held a graduation party Thursday, May 21 for elementary school age children who participated in the D.A.R.E. program this school year.

Officer Shawn Scott, school resource officer of the Rexburg Police Department, said there are approximately 600 children altogether in the D.A.R.E. program from the Madison and Sugar-Salem school districts.

Scott said the police department rewards the children with a graduation at the local high school, a diploma, a D.A.R.E. t-shirt and then a party a few days later.

Scott said the party, which includes a lunch, is a safe and comfortable environment where the children get to interact with the D.A.R.E. officers and teachers.

Officer Jimmy Koller, patrolman for the RPD, said the party concludes the year similarly to a graduation celebration.

“It gives the kids a chance to be recognized for their hard work over the course of the year in the D.A.R.E. program,” Koller said.

The mission of D.A.R.E. is to teach kids skills in communication, confidence, decision making and refusal of harmful substances and behaviors, according to the RPD’s website.

“It’s not just about drugs,” Scott said. “It’s about staying away from addictive behaviors, treating people with respect and learning about yourself and how you respond to situations.”

Scott said the D.A.R.E. curriculum is Keep it Real, and these words are included on the kids’ t-shirts.

“Keep what you say truthful and real,” said Kamilla Bird, a student from the Madison district and a D.A.R.E. program graduate.

Lieutenant Colin Erickson of the RPD said two great aspects of the D.A.R.E. program are the connection the children have with the police officers and the opportunity to learn how to make positive decisions.

Erickson said he is still in contact with people who remember him as their D.A.R.E. officer and that the connection lasts a lifetime.

Scott said there are a few volunteers for the D.A.R.E. program, and the RPD is very selective because volunteers must be good with kids and a good fit to help in the schools.

Austin Montierth, a D.A.R.E. volunteer, said kids look up to the police officers and volunteers.

Emily Utter, a BYU-Idaho senior studying social work, said a group of five students from a community class volunteer for the D.A.R.E. program.

Megan Newell, a BYU-I junior studying social work and a D.A.R.E. volunteer, said the group’s goal is to provide positive examples for the kids because they are easily influenced, especially during their third, fourth and fifth grade years.

Utter said she loves helping the kids with their futures.

“It’s really fun if you set your heart to it,” Montierth said.