Seymour Police Officer Gilbert Carpenter announced names of fifth-graders to come up on the auditorium stage Tuesday night.
Each of those kids was selected as the Drug Abuse Resistance Education essay winner for their classroom. They each received a pin.
Carpenter then announced there was an overall essay winner, and that was Aubrey Hammond, a student in Lois Bryden’s class at Seymour-Redding Elementary School.
“I was stunned,” he said of when his name was called.
Aubrey then had to read his essay in front of all of the fifth-graders from Redding, Cortland, St. John’s Lutheran (Sauers) and Immanuel Lutheran and their parents.
“I was really embarrassed,” he said. “I was happy but nervous at the same time. I got up there, and I was a little shaky, but after it all, it was pretty good.”
Aubrey overcame his nervousness by knowing he was sharing the positive message of the D.A.R.E. program.
“I liked them to see that we all need to be good and not do drugs,” he said.
Among those in the crowd was Aubrey’s mother, Tami Hammond. She was happy her son’s essay was selected.
“Nothing really great ever happens to him, and it’s good for him to get a good praise,” she said. “I definitely am very proud of him. I was nervous for him because he’s not a real big public speaker, but he did great.”
As Aubrey went through the D.A.R.E. program, Tami Hammond said her son shared what he was learning.
The officers teach the 40-minute class once a week for 10 weeks. Students learn about the health effects and facts of tobacco and alcohol, risks and consequences, peer pressure, dealing with stressful situations, verbal and nonverbal types of communication, effective listening, bullying and helping others.
The curriculum involves a decision-making model where kids have to define, assess, respond and evaluate in a variety of situations.
In his essay, Aubrey wrote he learned to always say no to drugs and bullying and how to handle those situations.
“Always make good decisions no matter what it makes you look like,” Aubrey wrote. “Hopefully, I will make good decisions, becoming a responsible adult and an upstanding citizen.”
Tami Hammond said it is important for all fifth-graders to be involved in the program.
“I think it’s awesome for them to learn what drugs are, what they can do to you, how it can affect you, how it can affect people around you,” she said. “A lot of children don’t know what that stuff is or even know what it looks like or what it does to you until they actually get into this.”
During Tuesday’s graduation ceremony, the fifth-graders received high-fives from police officers and some of the 36 high school students that were selected as D.A.R.E. Role Models.
Tami Hammond said she hopes one day her son is one of the Role Models.
“I think that’s his next step, to do that,” she said. “I hope that he grows up to go on to college and become whatever he is aspiring to be. He hasn’t really shown any interest in anything, but I’m sure this is going to lead him to be a police officer. I just hope he does good and stays off drugs and stays clean and is a good inspiration.”
This was Carpenter’s first year of being a D.A.R.E. officer. He taught the program in the Seymour public and parochial elementary schools except for Emerson, which Officer Tim Toborg taught. Toborg has been a D.A.R.E. officer for 15 of his 25 years as a policeman.
Graduation was conducted Thursday night for Emerson, Seymour-Jackson and Margaret R. Brown elementary schools. In all, Carpenter and Toborg administered the program to more than 400 fifth-graders.
During Tuesday’s graduation, Carpenter told the fifth-graders and parents that becoming a D.A.R.E. officer was a big step that happened quickly, and he had to travel to Louisiana
He thanked the students and Role Models for a great first year.
Throughout the school year, the Role Models visited schools and spoke with fifth-graders about D.A.R.E. and what they had to look forward to in middle school and high school.
“You can look up to these people,” Carpenter said of the Role Models while speaking to the fifth-graders.
Even though the students are done with D.A.R.E., Toborg said they need to continue to avoid drugs, alcohol and bullying.
“Now, you’ve got to apply the things that you’ve learned, and you should set your goals to be a Role Model to go all the way through school and never try alcohol and tobacco,”
Toborg said it’s all about making good decisions.
“There are different kinds of people,” he said. “Some people can learn from other people’s mistakes, and some people just happen to make the mistakes themselves. I just hope that you can learn from other people’s mistakes and know what’s right and get on that path and achieve all that you can.”