Students D.A.R.E. to be ‘drug free’

Though their school colors are different, the message was the same as fifth graders across the county accepted a D.A.R.E. to be drug free.
Sixty-five students at Macedonia Elementary and 71 at Kelly Edwards Elementary graduated from the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program Dec. 14.
"These are our future," said Sgt. Donald Danner, a school resource officer who led the D.A.R.E. program at Macedonia. He also attended the KEES program.
Barnwell County Sheriff Ed Carroll said D.A.R.E. helps with a real need in the community, which is why he's committed to this program that has been a staple in Barnwell County elementary schools since 1989. "Behind me is where we start," he said, referring to the D.A.R.E. graduates.
"I applaud you for going above and beyond," said Nakeisha Baxley, the interim principal of KEES, to the students.
Eryl Smalls, the principal of MES, agreed, saying this is only the first step. "I challenge you to stay drug, alcohol and bully free."
Danner agreed the message of the 11-week program, which teaches students how to live their lives free of drugs, alcohol and bullies, should not end with the graduation. "It is a collaborative effort," he said of parents, students and the community working together to encourage a drug-free lifestyle.
Danner said the program has proven itself to be effective. "If you save one (child) it's worth it," he said.
Students said they are serious about being drug-free.
"I will say no to drugs. I will say yes to my own self worth," said Nia Ford in her essay. She along with Arianna Gibson and Kierra Jenkins were the essay winners at MES.
"I want to be happy and healthy," agreed Jenkins while reading her winning essay.
At KEES, essay winner Maia Cummings said she now knows what to say if someone offers her drugs or alcohol. "I will not let drugs drag me down," she said. Hannah Wooten and Karli Overton also read their winning essays.
"There will be those around you who make bad choices and attempt to bring you down," said Williston District 29 Superintendent Dr. Tom Siler. "Don't follow the crowd."