The “D.A.R.E. to be GREAT” summer camp, designed to teach youth how to avoid danger and drugs, concluded Thursday with a family day at Fort Middle School.
The Columbus Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit invited parents and students to the school to reflect on the fun experiences and lessons the camp provided. The students performed educational skits before enjoying a day out in the sun with water slides, ice cream and more.
“What we really want the kids to focus on is that they have choices to make,” said Columbus police Sgt. Donald Bush, head of the D.A.R.E. program. “We’re trying to make sure they make the right choices by having the tools to make those choices.”
Bush said the Muscogee County School District requires students to complete the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. It’s a series of officer-led classes that teach children how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives.
The Crime Prevention Unit continues the program after the school year ends with the D.A.R.E. to be GREAT summer camp, which started June 6. This year’s camp was funded through a $56,000 grant provided by the city of Columbus.
The grant made it possible for students to enjoy free field trips to the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center, movie theater, bowling alley and more.
Bush said it’s the positive interaction between police officers and the students that makes the D.A.R.E. program so successful.
“They see the police officers in a different light,” he said. “They see that’s a person, hopefully, they can trust. Hopefully, they can talk to that person.”
Daniel Roy, 11, said he enjoyed the field trips and science experiments as well as the important message D.A.R.E. strives to teach its participants.
“Treat other people like you want to be treated,” Roy responded when asked about what the program has taught him. “And don’t smoke or drink, because millions of people die over the year from smoking.”
Peggy Edwards said her 11-year-old granddaughter, Haley, has also thoroughly enjoyed the camp. She would often times return home talking about her exciting adventures.
Edwards said she admires the officers for their willingness to take the time out of their busy days to speak with the youth about significant topics, such as bullying.
“I’ve watched the police officers up here and it just amazes me how they take their time to do something like this,” she said. “I really believe every child should be able to go through it, because they learn so much with the activities they do.”