"The DARE program, which was founded in 1983, helps kids learn about drugs and how to handle peer pressure situations," said Stockton. "It is taught in all 50 states, in Canada and several other countries. Over a million students have graduated from the program."
After Stockton's opening address and the introduction of Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly and several other law enforcement and county officials in attendance, students read their winning drug resistance essays.
This year's essay contest winners were: Madison Olbertz, of Shell Knob, and Maddie Davis, of Exeter. Sabrina Smith, of Shell Knob, and Neda Lawrence, of Exeter, were recognized as contest runners-up. Each student received a savings bond from Security Bank.
"DARE can provide students with role models, positive alternatives and positive influence and still come up short," said Stockton. "No program can succeed without the help of parents.
"These kids look up to and respect you," said Stockton. "Most of them have told me that their parents are their heroes. I want to challenge you to be the kind of role models that they should see. You model the behavior that your kids do also."
Graduates had the opportunity to present their parents with paper flowers during the ceremony.
"It has been my honor to be a DARE officer for the last five years," said Stockton. "I am proud of each of these students. I hope you all succeed in life. Remember that there are consequences for the choices you make. Don't be a student who later says, 'I wish I would have listened to my DARE officer.'"
Shell Knob: Levi Albertson, Abi Burdine, Karli Burks, Kaitlynn Grayum, Dane Hampton, DeAnna Hixon, Kyle Johnson, Seth Larson, Mackenzie Lawson, Madison Olbertz, Brett Renfrow, Bayleigh Shinn, Sabrina Smith, Dustin Trent and Ambria Vaughan.
Exeter: Reanna Berry, Maycee Blake, Courtney Bunch, Loren Butts, Ethan Caddell, Chloe Carpenter, Madelyn Cole, Geoffrey Corn, Madison Davis, Michael Drye, Lyndsee Erwin, Kaylie Hunter, Lexee Johnson, Seth Jones, Laura Kester, Neda Lawrence, Thomas Mosley, Tristan Mosley, Trevor Nelson, James Peck, Jr., James Petty, Jennyfer Ramsey, Austin Rayburn, Jacob Selleck, Jozee Sorensen, Wade Sturgell and Caeton Valenzuela.
After closing remarks by Dr. Ernest Raney, Exeter superintendent, Stockton asked all students, parents, teachers and administrators to join in a circle of friends on the multipurpose room floor.