Did you know alcohol is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 and more than 400,000 Americans die from tobacco-related causes each year?

I keep myself safe from drugs. I make sure I don’t have any friends who do drugs or smoke.

In D.A.R.E., you get to learn about the health effects of taking drugs, smoking, drinking alcohol, resistance strategies to help say no and communication styles when put in difficult situations and need to make a responsible decision.

I learned a lot of things in D.A.R.E. I learned how to use the D.A.R.E Decision Making Model. D is for define, which means describe the problem. A is for assess, which means what are your choices. R is for respond, which means make a choice. E is for evaluate, which means did you make a good choice.

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We also learned many resistance strategies. There are five in total. They are avoiding the situation, which is stay away from places that you know there are people using drugs. Strength in numbers, which is hang around with nonusers. Walking away, which is when someone asks you if you want a cigarette, you say no and walk away.

Saying no while giving a reason or excuse, which is when somebody asks you if you want a beer, you could say no that your parents will ground you for life. Also, changing the subject, which is to talk about something else.

We also learned effective communication styles. There are three types. They are demanding, unsure and confident.

I use the D.A.R.E. Decision Making Model all the time. I’ll give you an example. I had an upcoming test. After I finished my homework, I was going to study, but somebody knocked at my door. It was my friend and she wanted me to play outside. It was time to use the Decision Making Model. What’s my problem? I don’t know whether to go outside or study for my test. What are my choices? My choices are to study or play outside. What should I choose? I chose to study. Did I make a good decision? Yes, because I wanted to get a good grade on my test.

I can use the resistance strategies to make a good choice. For example, avoiding the situation, because I know some places where there are people using drugs or smoking tobacco. I stay away from those places.

I will use changing the subject if someone asks me if I want a cigarette. I’ll say, “Let’s have an ice cream instead!” I can use confident communication to make a good choice. I don’t want to be demanding, because I don’t want to be rough on that person. I don’t want to be unsure, because I don’t want to be embarrassed if I don’t know what to say. I’d rather be confident.

I’ve recently learned of a new strategy of how people use drugs. They go to a room filled with alcohol and wear a special suit. They inhale the alcohol. I will hang out with nonusers to keep myself safe. So far, D.A.R.E. has been a great experience for me.

St. Ambrose fifth-grader Melanie Gonzalez was the winner of the city’s annual Drug Abuse Resistance Education essay contest for this school year.