FAIRBORN — Approximately 350 fifth-grade Fairborn Intermediate School students completed the 10-week DARE course this term under the direction of School Resource Officer Nate Penrod of the Fairborn Police Department. Two hundred seventy nine participated in the program’s graduation April 27.
“Leading by example is what I want them to do,” Penrod said. “I want them to become classroom leaders, good, positive role models and take what they’ve learned to continue in their life.”
The program started in January after the students returned from winter break, initially learning about tobacco and alcohol and the effects of using such. As the program moved forward, they picked up on life lessons, such as making decisions, peer pressure, bullying and stress management. Penrod said the topics linked back to “just saying no,” and asked them to practice role playing and other activities throughout the program. DARE students’ final assignment included an essay, which addressed how they would never try drugs and how they could use the skills the learned through DARE to help others.
But DARE isn’t about “just saying no” — Penrod said it serves as an avenue to build community relations.
“There’s been some students who are just afraid of police officers and in that 10 weeks, I’ve been able to build a relationship with students who may be afraid of police officers,” Penrod said. “Now they’ve told me that I’m the first police officer they’ve actually liked and talk to and are not afraid of.”
“Building the community relationship with students at this age, maybe now they’ll reach out to us (police officers) for help and maybe they won’t be afraid if they see us,” he added. “They’ll just give us a nice wave — like the community used to do in the past — hopefully we can get back to that.”
Penrod completed DARE training late last year which certified him to teach the program and it is planned to continue the following school year. Due to the timing of Penrod receiving certification to teach the program, he took on 14 classes at a time.
Next year, he will take on seven in the fall term as they return from summer vacation and seven in the spring term following winter break. Upon reaching the completion of DARE training, Penrod was asked to speak to his class, essentially serving as a valedictorian. Penrod also speaks to eight grade students taking health classes within Fairborn City Schools about the impacts of using drugs. Meanwhile, School Resource Officer Jim Hern of the Fairborn Police Department teaches an introduction to law enforcement class to Fairborn High School students.
“Teach them young and hopefully they’ll have the skills to handle it when they’re confronted with a situation like that,” Penrod said.
Reach Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.