CIRCLEVILLE — On Friday, Jan. 31, Pickaway County Sheriff Robert Radcliff, as well as others, were in attendance for the Pickaway County Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program graduates. Essay finalists were also announced.
Sheriff Radcliff, along with Deputy Dale Thomas and Michael Blue attended the graduation and presented graduation certificates, and announced D.A.R.E. essay finalists.
With a total of seven classes participating in the D.A.R.E. program, essay finalists included Savanna Sells, Ninava Rue, Josie Randall, Charity Haeger, Stephen Russel, Stevie Leasure and Savannah Griffith. Of the seven students selected, only three were chosen as essay winners for the program. The first place award went to Randle followed by Griffith in second place and Rue in third place.
Students throughout all school districts in Pickaway County participate in the Pickaway County Sheriff’s D.A.R.E. program. Students are introduced to D.A.R.E. in fifth grade with another program in the seventh grade. Each program at each school takes approximately nine weeks to complete, according to Deputy Thomas.
In late January, it was Circleville’s turn to recognize those who completed the program. Before the graduation ceremony,
each student must complete a set of criteria, which includes completing a workbook, participating in classroom activities and writing and presenting an essay of what they learned in the program.
On Jan. 31, students received a certificate of completion with Sheriff Radcliff also handing out the Sheriff’s Star. PCSO does similar events such as this throughout the county giving students the recognition for completing the program.
“We are going on our 13th year for D.A.R.E. in Pickaway County,” Deputy Thomas told The Circleville Herald. “Fifth grade is our primary program and then we have a follow up in the seventh grade.”
Thomas has been at the forefront when it comes to the D.A.R.E. program in the county. He stated that he, as well as others in the department, feels that prevention is an emphasis for youth who are sometimes being introduced to drug use.
“Its not just a drug program, of course drugs are a part of that,” Thomas explained. “But it’s more of a decision-making program.”
Thomas added that the program covers and educates youth on how to handle pressured situations that involve drug usage. Thomas’ job is to explain to students why they should steer their decision away from those incidents and how they can make better life decisions. Much of the education includes the consequences of using drugs.
The program covers more than just drug usage. Thomas explained that the program also teaches students how to properly handle stress as well as how to handle bullying. It also directs students on self-respect and discipline rather than falling victim to social dynamics and how others may think of them. The program also deals with peer pressure and when students would say “no” when confronted about different types of issues.
“What we do is focus on why are the kids turning to drugs and then we work those problems,” Deputy Thomas stated.
The Sheriff’s D.A.R.E. program is not just focussed in Circleville, rather, it’s countywide. According to the deputy, each school district participates in the program for a nine-week period. Each nine weeks, Thomas works with one school district with similar topics covered in each period. The first school to participate was Teays Valley Local School District, second was Circleville City School District, third is Westfall Local School District and fourth will be in the Logan Elm Local School District. Also included in the D.A.R.E. program is New Hope Christian Academy.
A total of around 800 kids participate in the D.A.R.E. program each year. At Circleville this year, Thomas participated in teaching seven classes with an average of 26 students per class.
Deputy Thomas has been hard at work with the program being the program head for approximately 23 years. His predecessor, Sergeant Harold Hopkins, started the program in August of 1990. He would later retire around 1996 promoting Thomas to take over his role.
“Drugs are a common topic. I think we need to be talking more about the problems that arise around them,” Deputy Thomas stated. “I’ve seen the program change so much over the years… we are now focusing on vaping… we are hitting that hard.”
Thomas added that each year brings new challenges his department tries to address with youth in the community. Along with vaping, the program has included suicide and depression.