Pupils say the program teaches them how to say no.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Christopher Kochera is only in the fifth grade, yet he already knows that if he abuses drugs and alcohol, he can tear his family apart.
"I do not want this to happen to my family, so I will say no to drugs and alcohol," Christopher said.
Christopher was one of 379 fifth-graders who received a diploma Tuesday night as part of the first Drug Abuse Resistance Education graduation for Austintown and Frank Ohl middle schools.
During the ceremony in the Fitch High School auditorium, Christopher, who attends Frank Ohl, and Jonathan Wallace, a pupil from Austintown Middle School, read from essays in which they state their reasons for not abusing drugs.
"I've learned that I have the right to say no to anything that is not good for me or may harm me," Jonathan said.
Frank Ohl pupil Victoria Easton added that "when you know how to say no, it's easier." She said the D.A.R.E. program has taught her how to say no if she is pressured to take drugs, tobacco or alcohol.
Parent's concerns: That reassures her father, Samuel Easton, who said today's children face too much pressure when it comes to drugs.
"In today's day and age they deal with a lot more than I did growing up," Easton said. "The pressures of drugs and alcohol are enormous on a child her age."
Jeff Toth, the township police department's D.A.R.E. officer, said pupils in the program learned "never to start, never to try alcohol, tobacco or drugs."
Toth said the 17-week program consisted of weekly classes in which pupils were taught about the causes of drug abuse and how drug abuse can affect self-esteem. He also said pupils discussed alternatives to drug abuse and how to peacefully settle disagreements.
"They're pretty well prepared," he said.
Choosing friends: Frank Ohl pupil Adrienne Donzella said that through the program she learned how to choose friends who won't pressure her to do drugs. She also said she learned the consequences of drugs and violence.
"Drugs and violence are not good for you," Adrienne said.
Adrienne's mother, Carole Deeter of Austintown, said she feels that understanding the consequences of drug abuse will help her daughter resist peer pressure to take drugs.
"There's too much of it in our society already," Deeter said.