M.E.D., Sheriff’s Office Team Up to Bring D.A.R.E. to Chatham
Thanks to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Mary E. Dardess Elementary School now offers a Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program for all our fifth graders. The D.A.R.E. program, retooled in recent years, addresses issues like drug and tobacco use while placing a greater focus on students gaining knowledge and skills they can use to make safe and responsible choices in all aspects of their lives. Deputy Wendy Guntert, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office D.A.R.E. Officer, will be teaching the program one day a week at M.E.D. over the next few months.
On October 18, the school and Sheriff’s Office held a kick off to celebrate the start of the program at M.E.D. School principal Kristen Reno introduced Deputy Guntert to the fifth graders and their teachers, who had all gathered outside the front of the school to welcome her. Guntert talked to the students briefly about what they would be doing together over next several months, including discussions, role‐playing, and written activities revolving around things like responsible decision making, communication skills, understanding others, and citizenship.
“The D.A.R.E. model really ties in nicely with the types of character education programs that we have going here at M.E.D.,” said school counselor Trisha Bradley, who is working in conjunction with Deputy Guntert to incorporate the school’s ‘Too Good for Violence’ anti-bullying program into the D.A.R.E. curriculum. Chatham had not had a D.A.R.E. program for several years, and as part of her school district’s recent focus on student wellness, Bradley began looking into the updated D.A.R.E. model and how it could benefit students in the fifth grade.
“When the school called us up and asked if we could do it, without question our answer was ‘yes.’” said Sheriff David Bartlett, who along with Deputy Guntert and Chatham’s School Resource Deputy, Todd Hyson, attended the kick off with Chatham’s fifth graders. Sheriff Bartlett said that having D.A.R.E. in Columbia County schools is something his office has placed a high value on, adding that Deputy Guntert now teaches D.A.R.E. in every public school district in the county with the exception of one, reaching about 900 students per year. The Sheriff’s Office provides funding for the program through its annual budget and offers it free of cost to schools.