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5th graders learn how to avoid drug use
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Lathrop Police Services Chief Danielle Hohe congratulates a Lathrop Elementary School fifth grader for completing the nine-week DARE program. In the center is Lt. Chris Pehl and motorcycle officer Jose Aleman. - photo by GLENN KAHL

LATHROP — Some 300 fifth grade students in Lathrop graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program last week.

Lathrop Elementary School graduated 107 students at the end of the nine week program on Tuesday. That was followed by Mossdale School with 94 grads as well as Joseph Widmer School on Wednesday and Thursday.  Widmer saw 92 boys and girls graduate from the program .

Lathrop Police Chief Danielle Hohe told the students she was proud of them. The chief told them as they sat on bleachers on the side wall of the school’s multi-purpose room that their bright futures start with good decisions. A group of some 30 parents sat near the door watching the ceremonies that included a demonstration by Canine Officer Adam Grub and his police dog “Echo.”

The chief said she is also proud of the city’s involvement with youth, noting that when the children and their parents see the black and white patrol cars they see the involvement with the community.

“You are all welcome to come and see me in my office at the police department,” she told the children.

Lieutenant Chris Pehl echoed the chief’s words saying, “You are our future – you are Lathrop’s future.”

Deputy Val Cardozo, instructor for the course at the three schools, said that by completing the course the children now have the information to guard against drugs, and to resist the suggestions by others to try and experiment with drugs.

The students all received DARE shirts and baseball caps for their involvement.

Four class representatives at Lathrop Elementary School vied for first place in an essay contest focusing on the DARE program.  Jasmine Gandarilla won first place honors with her writings to receive four tickets to a Stockton Thunders ice hokey game.  The other class representatives who offered their views of the program through their essays were Daniella Torres, Carelly Medina, and Nereyda Pena.

Gandarilla’s essay follows in its entirety:

“In DARE we learned a lot of things.  We learned that tobacco, marijuana, alcohol and inhalants are really bad for you.  We made healthy choices, solved puzzles about peer pressure and what should they or you do.  We read and did fact and work sheet together.

“I also learned that alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and inhalants affect some body parts.  It is important to not do drugs because it will harm mostly everything in your body.  It is very dangerous to inhale, chew or drink certain drugs.  You’re putting your life at risk.

“It’s important to stay safe because none of us want to get sick and or die.  If someone asks me to do drugs with them I would say no and walk away.  I will never ever, ever do drugs.

“I promise I will never do drugs.  I will stay away from it.  I won’t touch it.  I will tell an adult to throw it away.”

Deputy Cardoza is the certified instructor for the DARE program. she is usually assisted by motorcycle officer Matt Lindemann and Jose Aleman.

The Manteca Police Department has been focusing primarily on gang talks with students that has included warnings on the use of alcohol and drugs.  In January Officer Jason Hensley said he will be talking to students from fifth grade to junior high levels.

In Ripon the DARE program with the school district was suspended with the retirement of school resource police officer Scott Lindsay.  Police Chief Ed Ormonde has just designed a new program where patrol officers will be going on campus to chat with students in casual visitations during their recess and lunch breaks, being mindful not to interrupt the curriculum.