12.16.2019 - 3:17 PM - Kelly Hueckman

Last Thursday, fifth grade students were in for a treat when they got their first taste of Prentice School’s legendary Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. After having great influence on older students and alumni, D.A.R.E. has kept a high status within the school. With the younger students buzzing about the beginning of the program, there’s no doubt they will be eager learners in the weekly class.

D.A.R.E., an organization promoting student empowerment and lives free from “violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors,” has impacted Prentice for 29 years after being originally founded in California in 1983. Each year, the fifth grade class takes a 12-week course where they are educated about the gruesome effects of substance abuse and violent behavior. Students can expect to learn about the dangers and consequences of alcohol, drugs,  smoking, and bullying. Throughout the years, the program has also incorporated lessons on vaping, abusing prescription drugs, and cyberbullying to keep up with current threatening trends. At the end of the course and after receiving a free t-shirt with that year’s design, the fifth grade has a ceremony presenting what they’ve learned.

The program’s effects don’t end after the ceremony; even high school students remember and apply the knowledge gained from the course. Clayton Lyons, a senior at Prentice High, shared his thoughts about how D.A.R.E. helped him make the right decisions as he got older. “It’s very beneficial,” Lyons explained. “It shows kids there is a better way out and that you don’t have to fall under peer pressure.”  The course, which emphasizes the temptations and dangers of peer pressure, gives practical and realistic techniques to avoid falling victim to those behaviors.

Not only has D.A.R.E been a key program in the school, but the course instructor also plays an important role in the Prentice School. After Price County Sheriff Brian Schmidt taught for six years, Deputy Zondlo took over in 1996 and has been the instructor ever since, even gaining the title of D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year in 2015. Zondlo also has an introduction to D.A.R.E. for the fourth grade classes, discusses the risks and effects of cyberbullying, and drives through parades in the D.A.R.E squad car. “I really like being in schools and hanging out with kids,” Zondlo stated. “I think it’s good to get to know them on a personal basis and help them learn to make the right decisions.” 

Zondlo isn’t the only one who is excited for this year’s course, though. Several fifth graders expressed their enthusiasm with a bombardment of questions they are itching to ask in upcoming classes. It’s safe to say they are eager learners, which, according to Zondlo, is something she’s used to. “I’m really impressed with the students here,” she praised. “I see how they show respect to the police in and out of school.”  Each year, D.A.R.E. proves its success by selecting four seniors to be positive role models, essentially endorsing the program.

As for upcoming years of D.A.R.E., students and parents should expect to see more of the program. Those who have participated in it generally agree that youth should have the opportunity to learn about how to make the right choices and avoid the dangers of violent behavior. As long as there are still seniors each year to set good examples, Zondlo claims she can see that “the school will keep the program for many years to come.”