It isn’t often that people get to see police officers in full uniform playing the drums or singing Mariah Carey’s Hero on stage. However, the students who graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Program in Union City last week were able to see just that.
The DARE program curriculum, which teaches children how to say no to drugs and avoid violence, is administered to fifth grade students in all of Union City’s grammar schools, both public and parochial.
Three nights of graduations were held at the Park Theater located at 560 32nd St. in Union City on April 6,7 and 8.
In the schools
In 1999, the federal government instituted the National Resource Officer program, which provided money to each municipality’s police department to assign School Resource Officers to each school within their municipality.
These School Resource Officers have been trained to interact in the school environment. Officers will visit classrooms to talk about safety, assist the security officers in securing the school grounds, help in resolving student conflicts and teach the DARE curriculum.
“We want to show to the students that we are not just law enforcers,” said Sgt. William Peer, the officer in charge of the program, last week. He added that the officers are not just working with the fifth grade students in the schools. “We are there to help the students,” he said. “We teach them what can happen if they do drugs and give them some alternatives.”
From the cheers that each officer received when they appeared on stage during the graduation ceremonies, it is evident that the students enjoy working with the police officers.
“I felt safe and I knew that I would be taught really well,” said Kristina Gonzalez of Holy Rosary about having police officers in her school.
“The officers are very nice,” said Yzamar Monter of Hudson School. “They are very helpful.”
The School Resource Officers who teach the DARE curriculum in the schools are Phil Alvarado in Gilmore School, Pablo Jauregui in Christopher Columbus School and the city’s parochial schools, Octavio Orosco in Edison School, Blanca Ramos-Diaz in Roosevelt School, Juan Lugo in Hudson School, Henry Perez in Robert Waters School, Mike Ortega in Washington School, and Joe Botti in Jefferson School and St. Augustine’s. Emerson and Union Hill High School are also assigned School Resource Officers.
While many of the fifth graders who graduated from the Union City Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program last week said that they already knew that drugs were bad for them, they didn’t know why they were bad until they were taught the DARE curriculum.
The DARE curriculum is taught in every fifth grade in Union City, including the city’s parochial schools.
The students were asked to write an essay telling the DARE officers what they learned this year in their classes. One essay winner per school was chosen to read his or her essay on stage during the graduation ceremony. “What the officers try to instill is a sense of self-esteem and a support system that they can build upon,” said Peer. “We want to build upon the foundation that their teachers and parents already started.”
Besides learning about the consequences of taking drugs, students also learned about conflict resolution. “I learned what drugs can do to my body,” said Catherine Collazo of Holy Rosary.
“Violence is not a way to release my problems,” said Yzamar Monter of Hudson School about what she learned. “And drugs aren’t, either.”