City of Elizabethton celebrates National D.A.R.E. Day

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com

   In Elizabethton, as across the nation, today is being recognized as National D.A.R.E. Day.
   "National D.A.R.E. Day is a day set aside all across the country to show support for the D.A.R.E. program," said Elizabethon Police Department Sgt. Danny Hilbert. "It's to show folks the importance of the program."
   D.A.R.E., Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is a program for schools that is designed to teach children the dangers of using drugs, alcohol or tobacco and to encourage them through that education to resist those substances. " D.A.R.E. has been in Carter County since 1990," said Hilbert, D.A.R.E. officer for the Elizabethton School System. "The program started in Los Angeles in 1983."
   The program is designed for children of all ages. "There is a curriculum for elementary schools and there is a curriculum for junior high schools. There is also a curriculum for high school students," Hilbert said. "We teach it in the elementary schools because we feel that is the age to teach children about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. We feel that it is more effective at this age."
   Hilbert feels that teaching the D.A.R.E. program in schools has a positive effect on the lives of the children who participate in the program. "I feel like as far as our school system, D.A.R.E. has had a big difference in the kids' lives," he said. "I have had students come up to me at the high school at football games who have told me they were glad they were able to do the D.A.R.E. program because later on they were faced with those kinds of situations and that the things they learned in the program helped them."
   Hearing stories like that is part of the reason that Hilbert says he loves being a D.A.R.E. officer and working with kids. "It makes me feel good to know that I could go in the classroom and make a difference in the kids' lives," he said, adding that the kids should be top priority for any officer who works with the program. "I don't walk in the classroom for a pat on my back; I do it for them (the children). It makes my day when I get to walk in the classroom and be with those kids."
   The children who participate in the program love it, Hilbert said. "Those kids are sitting there smiling from ear to ear waiting to hear what you have to say," he said.
   This year some changes were implemented concerning the way that the D.A.R.E. program is taught to students, Hilbert said. "This year they started looking at the lessons to see which ones were the most helpful to the kids," he said, adding that previously officers with the program taught 17 lessons during the course and now they teach 10. "They felt like those 10 were the most effective," he said.
   Hilbert, who is in his eighth year as a D.A.R.E. officer, teaches children at Harold McCormick, East Side and West Side Elementary schools about the dangers of substance use and abuse. This year, he worked with between 150 and 175 students in Carter County.