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Lathrop students DARE to say no to drugs

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Lathrop students DARE to say no to drugs

Lathrop Police Chief Danelle Hohe greets graduating Mossdale students as their names are announced.


POSTED December 29, 2013 9:25 p.m.

LATHROP – Daniel Whaley doesn’t need to do drugs to know that they’re a dead-end street.

He just knows.

This month the Mossdale Elementary fifth grader stood before his classmates and talked about how he doesn’t want to wreck his life in order to find out for certain. It’s the cornerstone of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program – known as D.A.R.E. – that has long aimed to educate elementary school students about the dangers of the slippery slope, and the wiry Whaley embodied the program in all of its splendor.

Maybe the hardline truth that Lathrop Police Services personnel helped instill in the students had something to do with that.

“The good choices you make today are the difference between driving a patrol car and riding in the back of one,” Lathrop Police Chief Danelle Hohe said matter-of-factly.

The message seemed to sink in.

Thanks to the dedicated School Resource Officer program – funded by the City of Lathrop and the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Department – the fifth grade students at each of the city’s campuses learned about the dangers of drugs and the trap that comes with them.

While the program itself has been around for decades, it’s the hands-on work that deputies get with the students themselves that brings the true positive elements to the surface. Not every interaction that children have with police are positive ones – sometimes parents end up on the wrong side of the law – and getting to forge that relationship, said outgoing SRO Val Cardoza, puts a human face on the badge and lets the students know that they can count on and trust the officers they see around town.

“It’s very important to see these kids in an environment like this and to show them that what they’ve done is an accomplishment,” Cardoza said. “It’s an investment that we’re making in the community, and hopefully it’s an investment that they’re making as well.”

But the program has a lot more to teach than the standard “Just Say No” approach to drug abuse prevention.

According to Whaley, the curriculum included learning about how to properly handle and process stress and how to make effective and well-informed decisions – tools that will go far beyond just the standard prevention applications.

The name of the program, Cardoza said, might resonate with parents and people that remember it from their time in school, but it’s a whole different curriculum.

“I learned about the decision-making model and the signs of stress and how to deal with that,” Whaley said. “I was nervous standing up there. But I was honored.”

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