Students from Southwest and Purdy Middle Schools travelled to Wheaton to participate in the annual Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) graduation, which was held in the Wheaton gymnasium on May 8.
"Life is all about choices and you are getting to the age when you need to stop and think before you act," said Capt. Dana Kammerlohr, who serves as Barry County's DARE officer. "Stop and think and make good decisions.
"This is the end of the beginning of DARE education for you," said Dana. "Now, not just the classes that you took, but the decisions that you make will make the difference in your life. Stop and think about the consequences of your decisions, and don't ever be afraid to make the best decision for yourself."
Dana opened the DARE graduation ceremony by introducing Larry Stockton, who assists her in the DARE program, and several other individuals who support Barry County's drug resistance education program.
Each year, two students from each school district are selected to read their DARE essays at the graduation ceremony. This year's event featured essays written by Wheaton students Daisy Alvarado and Brandon Mestas, Southwest students Shane Seabolt and Brittany Miles and Purdy students Dana Cunningham and Clarissa Nunez.
"I learned many things in DARE," said Cunningham. "Officer Dana taught us to think outside the box. I know that I need to be drug-free, because I plan to be a singer. I will always try to make the right choices. I'm too young to throw my life away."
Cunningham said that Dana taught her many of the effects of drugs, alcohol and tobacco and how to make positive decisions by avoiding negative situations or just saying no.
"I have a goal to go to college and get a degree and be a veterinarian," said Nunez. "I pledge to make healthy choices and to be drug and violence free and to be a supportive and helpful friend."
Miles stated that drugs do not only affect the user but also affect all of their friends and family members. She urged her fellow graduates to think about the pros and cons of a decision before taking action.
"Before I was involved in DARE, I was a trouble maker," said Seabolt. "In DARE I found a whole new side of myself. I made a commitment to be drug-free, because I don't want to get hurt or in trouble."
Alvarado said, in addition to drug resistance education, Dana taught her class to be respectful of each other and other individuals in the community.
"The essays were so good this year that I could have them up here reading for hours," said Dana. "These kids put a lot of effort into this."
DARE certificates were presented to each student by Southwest sixth grade teachers Ashley Roe, Deborah Evans, Mary Morrone and Paul Cunningham, Purdy sixth grade teachers Ryan Kaden, Patty Haldmaier and Barbara Warnick and Wheaton sixth grade teachers Valerie Ball and Deborah Cosica.
The teachers were assisted by Southwest Middle School Principal Beverly Bonner, Purdy Middle School Principal Janet Boys and Wheaton Elementary School Principal Eileen Ford.
The 2008 DARE graduates are listed below by school.
Southwest: Christopher Albertson, Jeremiah Bailey, Justin Ballard, Mariah Beaver, Brittany Benninger, Leeanne Blakey, Sarah Brooks, Nataly Cain, Tristen Cain, Alison Carnes, Joshua Corn, Victoria Coy, Lindsey Crawford, Tabitha Curby, Ericka Davis, Seth Delossantos, Harley Dover, Jordan Durossette, David Enriquez, Stoney Fair, Jazmin Fielding, Angelina Ford, Brandy Garcia, Chastity Gray, Matthew Hackett, Kayley Hansen, Makenzie Harp, Jamason Hartin, Montana Hendrix, Jonathan Holliday, Michael Jenkins, Joshua Johnson, Tyler Keithley, Benjamin Lasiter, Colbey Lawyer, Kelsey Leonard, Tyler Logan, Samuel Martinez, Denver McGarrah, Malon McIntire, Valerie McKeever, Miles, Britney Mitchell, Lauren Mitchell, Elijah Moore, Maegan Morris, Shelby Munday, Cyrus Nalley, Gabriel O'Steen-Mann, Heaven Ott, Chad Oxford, Andrew Parker, Kodie Riott, Christian Robbins, Destinee Roller, April Sammarco, Seabolt, Lana Smith, Marvin Stephens, Jimmy Taylor, Kara Thomas, Douglas Trager, Katy Turberville-Baird, Wyatt Varner, Triston Williams, Derick Wright, Pajchea Yang, Nathan Young and Willa Young.
Purdy: Micaela Adams, Viridiana Aldava, Valerie Ash, Jessica Ball, Thomas Berry, Jessica Bickford, Caleb Birchfield, Macey Breeding, Deana Burch, Emmett Burch, William Click, Conner Collins, Brent Cornman, Doni Craig, Cunningham, Kyle Davidson, Jennifer Delossantos, Michael Dent, Sarah Foster, Careya Garcia, Alissa Graham, Carleigh Hall, Kaylynn Harkey, Jake Henderson, Melanie Heston, Ruben Ibarra, Martha King, Logan Lentz, Dillon Lowe, Ashley Lowery, Brendon Lucero, Alex Mareth, Tanner Marshall, Kelton Mattingly, Avery McCord, Andrew McCormick, Dustin Moore, Timothy Murray, Tracy Novack, Nunez, Justice O'Hagan, Alondra Perez, Jesus Perez, Jordan Robbins, Rocio Rodriguez, Francisco Salazar, Megan Schilly, Tyler Scott, Christian Smith, Gerbin Solis, Ashley Stone, Reese Veith, Brittany Wise, Larissa Wise and Yeng Kong Yang.
Wheaton: Alvarado, Allie Brock, Kristina Chang, Brandon Chapman, Jody Cooper, Logan Dunegan, Isaac Hammack, Kymberlee Heidel, Mariah Kochell, Amanda Munday, Dakota Munroe, Joseph Peterson, Marcus Prewitt, Tylar Pruitt, Kayleb Sparks, Amanda Vang, Ariel Wright, Christopher Yang, Yia Yang, Brittany Annecharico, Toby Banks, Riley Brattin, Joanna Dunegan, Angel Edwards, Daniel Gunter, William Haase, Matthew Hickman, Jimmie Keeney, Martha King, Shelby Lewis, Mestas, Robert Pointer, Logan Tate, Samantha Thomas, Pazong Thor, Christina Yang, George Yang and Kim Yang.
Harkey and Salazar, of Purdy, Fielding and Corn, of Southwest, and Pointer and Logan Dunegan, of Wheaton, were also presented with Daren Awards.
Near the end of the graduation ceremony, Dana challenged the parents, teachers and friends attending the event to be positive role models for the children in their lives.
"Our children need to have heroes in their lives," said Dana. "I believe each and every one of us, young and old, can make a difference in this world. Let us be the role models in their lives. I believe children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead."