October 20, 2005

Reaching out to children
• DARE class brings training to Henry School


Thirteen police officers wrapped up training to teach Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Thursday by visiting students at Henry School in Byhalia.

“They’re here to present what they’ve learned in a classroom setting,” said Sheri Hall, state coordinator for the DARE program. “We’re finishing up two weeks of DARE officer training.”

The group, made up mostly of Mississippi officers, also included one from Idaho and another from Rainbow City, Ala. Graduation was Friday at Whispering Woods in Olive Branch, the host location for the training.

“This group is close,” said Trent Lykins from Gooding, Idaho. “We all worked well together. I’ve enjoyed it.”

Lykins searched the Internet, and this class was the only one available at the time, plus he was able to visit a friend in Tennessee.

Hall said the average class size is 36, but that number dwindled this time due to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the coast. This was the first time the class had been held in Olive Branch. Two are conducted per year in the state.

The final leg of the two-week program moved to Henry largely because DARE is being introduced in the Marshall County School District. DARE teaches children how to recognize and resist the direct and subtle pressures that influence them to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs.

“We met with the superintendent, the sheriff and their staffs, and it all fell into place,” Hall said.

“It’s an exciting time to be getting into the DARE program. We have a new curriculum that was rewritten in 2003 with updated information.”

Tamara Jeffries, certified in 2002, will be the new DARE officer for Marshall County. She is one of three school resource officers in the county — Jeffries at Byhalia and Henry, Cathy Elliott at Potts Camp and Galena and Shane Goode at H.W. Byers. DARE and the school resource officers are a cooperative effort between the school district and the sheriff’s department.

“I’m excited about introducing the DARE curriculum to the students in the county, and I think the students are excited,” said Jeffries, who previously taught the program in Holly Springs. “I’ve always wanted to work with children. It’s not only teaching them to resist drugs and violence, but it’s also a mentoring position.”

City of Holly Springs officer J.C. Norman was certified as part of this class.

DARE will be taught to fifth graders once a week for 10 weeks. Each classroom session will be 45 minutes to one hour. At the end of the 10 weeks, there will be a graduation.

Sheriff Kenny Dickerson welcomed the latest class of DARE officers to Marshall County on Thursday.

“DARE is one of the greatest needs in Marshall County, Mississippi and the United States,” Dickerson said. “Prevention is much better than the cure. Reaching out to these children is so important. We have to get their attention now.”

Dickerson said more money should go into such youth programs.

“Maybe some day, people will see the light,” he said. “It’s just beyond me that we can’t get more federal and state funds. There needs to be millions more put into programs such as this.”

Dickerson said it takes a dedicated, special person to teach DARE.

“Thank you for your efforts,” he said. “If we don’t reach them early, it might be too late. We’re trying to prevent crime and incarceration later on.”

Dickerson said the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department is a supporter of youth.

“We have a special interest in our children,” he said.

According to statistics provided by DARE, between 70 and 90 percent of all crimes in the United States are drug related.

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