BREMEN — We make thousands of decisions every day — what to eat, what to wear, and when to go to bed. But recently, Bremen fifth graders took a stand and decided to make good choices for their entire lifetimes.
Every year the Bremen Police Department (with funding from the Marshall County Prosecutor’s office) enacts a 12-week program with the community schools’ fifth grade students that teaches them about what drugs, tobacco and alcohol can do to them and their loved ones. They learn about peer pressure, violence, and bullying and how to prevent it within their own lives and in others.’
The program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) has been being taught in the area for 23 years started by none other than the grandfather of the winner of this year’s DARE essay contest. Each student is assigned to write an essay at the conclusion, about what they learned over the course of the program. Winners are selected in each class and the overall winner is then selected and announced at the annual graduation ceremony. With the program’s instructor, Bremen Police Chief Matthew Hassel, at this year’s ceremony were Bremen Assistant Chief Steve Pittman; Capt. Daniel Martin of the local police reserves; Lynn Berndt, deputy prosecuting attorney for Marshall County, Cathy Harrison, representing the Town of Bremen, area State Rep. Tim Harman, Bremen Elementary Middle School Principal Larry Yelaska and two youth role models: Thomas Dean and Haley Foster who also worked with the younger students over the course of the 12-week learning experience. The teens offered examples of their talents and commitment to remain drug and violence free, reminding the children that they couldn’t be as successful as they are by making bad choices.
Berndt, a BHS graduate, said her career puts her directly in touch with the aftermaths of people who have committed crimes involving, drugs, alcohol and violence. “Not everybody has a problem with alcohol,” she explained, “but it is a drug. … I see these problems more and more every day.” Berndt also told those present that they will need to use the tools taught within the DARE program long after the fifth grade. “Education like this is so important,” she said. “Peer pressure doesn’t stop at adulthood.”
The fifth graders each received a T-shirt and a certificate of completion of the program as well as other associated token gifts.
Essay winners also received a medallion and the overall winner a medal and the opportunity to meet and compete with other essay winners from other schools in Marshall County at a ceremony to determine an overall county winner in May. Each of this year’s essay winners (Kenny Hilgendorf, Bailey Vermillion, Brandon Schmucker, and McKenna Myers) read their informative and moving writings to those gathered at the Bowen Auditorium before Myers was announced as Bremen Elementary School’s 2012 DARE essay winner.
Chief Hassel shared sentiments with the children prior to dismissing them from the final act of the annual program. “I see the leaders of this community in this room,” he said. “Will you make it a drug- and abuse-free community? … I challenge you to have the willpower to say ‘no’.”
As written by the 2012 Bremen Dare essay winner:
By: McKenna Myers
I had an amazing experience in the D.A.R.E. program. Officer hassle has taught me so much. About reporting bullying, pressure and many other things.
My grandfather, retired Bremen Chief of police James Brown, brought the D.A.R.E. program into the Bremen schools. He wanted what other schools had, a drug free school.
I believe a very important thing in D.A.R.E. that I have learned is to report bullying. I have been a bystander and have not done anything. Today I look back on that and regret that I did not do anything. In the future, I will take a stand and help out with any situation I come upon.
The most important thing in D.A.R.E. is what I have experienced in my own life. I have watched what drugs can do to you and your family.
I have a brother that chose the wrong path, and could not say NO. Once he started doing the drugs, it had a great impact on my family.
I personally was at a very young age to have seen and dealt with what drugs can do to someone. I watched my brother spiral out of control and not care about the good things he had in life. It began by him not following rules at home, a change in his friends, dropping out of sports and activities, and then eventually dropping out of school.
The things I witnessed that will forever stay with me are the late nights when the police would be called because we could not control him under the use of drugs. My entire family knew we couldn’t do anything until he made a choice to finally say no to drugs.
I can proudly say today that the D.A.R.E. program can really impact me as a student and a sister to my brother. My brother is doing so wonderful today. He really has changed over the last couple of years, because he has really committed to being a good citizen. He really likes listening to me do homework especially D.A.R.E.
He can really relate to what is in the D.A.R.E program book and situations and I now know that the D.A.R.E. program can help me make the right choices and I can help my brother to continue to follow the D.A.R.E. program too.
I am very proud to pledge that I McKenna Myers will never do any type of drugs or alcohol substance in my entire life because I follow the D.A.R.E Program.