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Fillmore County D.A.R.E. Program

Fri, Apr 23rd, 2010
Posted in Education

In promotion of this year's theme of Healthy Counties, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about our D.A.R.E. Program in Fillmore County.

D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) was founded in Los Angeles, California, in 1983. The concept of having police officer -led school classroom lessons about peer pressure and living drug and violence free lives quickly spread across the nation. D.A.R.E. is now and international program and continues in over 50 percent of the schools and in more than 43 countries.

2010 marks the 20th anniversary of the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office D.A.R.E. program. We are very proud of that achievement. I have included a bit of information about our program here.

Fillmore County Sheriff Jim Connolly started the program in Fillmore County in 1990. Our first D.A.R.E. officer was Deputy Tom Kaase. Tom is currently a Fillmore County Commissioner and Rochester Police Department Patrol Sergeant. The first students graduated from our program in 1991. Chad Sherack, currently a DNR Game Warden in northern Minnesota followed. Brian Howard, a Sergeant with Olmsted County Sheriff's Office was our next instructor. Rick Bittle took over after Brian Howard. Rick is now a Patrol Sergeant with the Winona Police Department. Phil Whitacre, a Fillmore County Investigator Sergeant, taught D.A.R.E. for six years. Fillmore County Investigator Dave Dyke was our D.A.R.E. Officer until 2008. Deputies Kevin Beck and Lance Boyum became D.A.R.E. Officers in January 2008 and are teaching this year at Kingsland, Mabel-Canton, Lanesboro and Rushford-Peterson.

The most common question I get from parents and teachers is whether or not D.A.R.E. works. I've always felt that the answer is intangible. The important part of the program is the relationship we build with the students, parents and teachers. In 10 weeks time, we bring the kids a toolbox full of facts, ideas and thoughts and options. To make this program work, it's so important that the kids take that toolbox home with them and share it with their parents, family and friends. Parents have the biggest role in this program. We give the same message to the kids and parents at every graduation. The D.A.R.E. program is only the beginning of the big project you have with your kid(s). It's a project that lasts for years.

In recent difficult economic times, many cities and counties have looked at their programs that are not mandatory. The D.A.R.E. program has been eliminated in many schools for that reason.

The D.A.R.E. budget here has been closely scrutinized every year for the last six years. It remains a priority for my office. As your Sheriff, I hope to keep it until something better comes along.

I'd like to thank the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners, participating School Administrators, past and present, the teachers who allow us into their classrooms and to the students who work very hard to complete the program. Special thanks to you the taxpayer.

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