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Third batch of students complete DARE program

Four seventh grade students won the DARE program's essay contest, which they read at the program's graduation ceremony Friday afternoon. From left to right, the winners were: Michayla Carmean, Alexandra Smith, Brielyn Erhart and Jaylee Wilkie. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press

Hagen Junior High School's seventh-grade class completed its DARE program on Friday, an effort to increase awareness and develop strategies to avoid drugs, alcohol and risky situations.

Officers from the Dickinson Police Department team up with Hagen's seventh-grade social studies department to put on 10 lesson plans for middle school students. This is the program's third year, so after the next class completes the lessons, all students in the district grades seventh through high school will have completed the course, said Cpl. Brandon Stockie, who serves as one of the district's DARE officers along with Officer Samantha Okke.

"At this age, kids don't have the cognitive ability necessarily to think that far in advance, and so giving them skills so they know what to say—even if they can't think that far in advance of what the effects could have on them — at least if we give them those skills then maybe they don't find themselves in such a troubling situation," said Principal Marcus Lewton.

Stockie said they teach students strategies to refuse, avoid and explain in order to steer clear of harmful situations or leave them if needed.

"I think it's important to have it because I think seventh grade is when they're starting to have those temptations or be in those situations, and it's a good age to catch them before they get in that high school where the situations are there," he said.

The students wrote essays about the program, reflecting on what they had learned this school year. Teachers and officers selected four essay winners — Michayla Carmean, Alexandra Smith, Brielyn Erhart and Jaylee Wilkie — who read their essays in front of their classmates at their graduation ceremony Friday afternoon. The winners will also get to go to lunch with Stockie and Okke on Wednesday and ride in the DARE car or police car.

The DARE program was partially funded by the Badlands Board of Realtors this year, which raised slightly less than $12,850 for the police department to purchase external ballistic vests in addition to funds for the DARE program, said Diana Zietz, the board's membership services committee chair. A little more than $2,000 of the donations went to the DARE program.

"It helps our youth, keeps them hopefully drug free, so we're supporting that way plus our officers," Zietz said.

Lewton said he thinks just having middle school students working with police officers is valuable, so that students see them as people there to help rather than those pulling over their parents. Stockie agreed noting that most of the students have not met him before since he does not spend as much time in the elementary schools. The DARE program gives him an opportunity to get to know middle school students before they get to the high school, where he spends most of his time as the district's school resource officer.

Mitch Meier, a seventh-grade geography teacher, said he thinks the program does have an impact on his students based on some of the responses he read in their essays. Most also seem to enjoy working with the officers, he said.

"Even if the program saves one kid or two kids from making some bad choices, then the program's worth it and for the others that will never get into trouble anyway, it doesn't hurt for them to hear either," Meier said. "But if it saves one or two kids, then it's definitely worth it."

Ellie Potter

Ellie Potter started working for The Dickinson Press in September of 2016 as a news reporter. She graduated from the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va. in December of 2015 with a degree in journalism. She is originally from Columbus, Ohio and has worked for publications in Prague, Czech Republic; Washington, DC and Richmond, Va. 

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