Under the glow of black lights, bowling balls created thunderous echoes across a room filled with more than 230 fifth-grade girls on a cold winter night earlier this month.

It’s an annual event that involves bowling and lots of food, games and prizes, and one a similar-sized group of boys participated in a week later.

The purpose is to allow fifth-graders from schools to celebrate the completion of the Seymour Police Department’s annual Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

Besides serving as a reward, the two D.A.R.E. lock-ins also give the students a chance to see police officers in a different light, D.A.R.E. Officer Gilbert Carpenter said.

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“We want them to see us as people who can have fun and they can talk to, and then if they have a problem, they can come to us,” Carpenter said.

Another aspect of the D.A.R.E. program is teaching students about staying positive and working on positive thinking.

Corey Combs, a senior at Seymour High School, said he remembers attending the lock-in as a fifth-grader and was excited about the chance to be a D.A.R.E. Role Model for the younger students.

Earlier this school year, high school students applied to be a D.A.R.E. Role Model, and officers made the final selections. The role models helped out at both lock-ins.

“Back then, I was just a face in the crowd. Now, I’m a role model,” Combs said. “It makes me feel like a true leader.”

Aaron Piper is a photographer and reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at apiper@tribtown.com or 812-523-7057.