Students say 'no' to drugs, graduate from D.A.R.E. program

First Byline: 
Jonathan Vickery - Staff Writer

Over 300 fifth graders across Barnwell County graduated from the D.A.R.E. program, pledging to be drug free.

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program gives students the skills and knowledge they need to say no to drugs, gangs and violence. It has been taught in Barnwell County elementary schools since the early 1990s, but actually began in 1983 in Los Angeles, California.

Barnwell Elementary, Kelly Edwards Elementary in Williston and Macedonia Elementary in Blackville recently held their graduation ceremonies. The speakers, songs and routine may have varied by school, but the message was the same.

"I dare you to be drug free. Be the example," said Jhordan Jenkins to the approximately 180 graduates at Barnwell Elementary's Nov. 26 ceremony. The Barnwell High senior, who graduated from the D.A.R.E. program seven years ago, said the commitment to stay drug free "starts every day you wake up."

Reading from his essay, which all D.A.R.E. students write, Caleb Donaldson said he "will not make risky decisions just to impress my friends." He was one of three students who wrote winning essays at Macedonia Elementary.

"It's ok to say no," agreed Tayla Harrison, a KEES essay winner. "Be a leader, not a follower."

During the Dec. 13 graduations at KEES and MES, S.C. Rep. Lonnie Hosey (District 91) encouraged students to reach their full potential and become leaders by obeying the rules, working hard in school, and staying away from drugs. Both schools had around 60 graduates each.

He recited a parable of a fern that grew very fast, while a bamboo seed planted next it did nothing. After five years, the bamboo seed sprang up and grew past the fern. "You're growing roots here in the fifth grade," said Hosey.

D.A.R.E. is more than just saying no to drugs and alcohol, it also teaches students about bullying.
Harrison, one of the essay winners at KEES, relayed that point by encouraging people to not be afraid to report bullying. "Tattling and telling are two different things," she said.

Williston District 29 Superintendent Dr. Tom Siler encouraged the graduates to "continue to be the leader you've been taught to be by this program."

Barnwell County Sheriff Ed Carroll said he's committed to the D.A.R.E. program, including making sure graduates don't have to pay for their T-shirts. "If we save one (child), it's worth it," he said.