Students, officer recognized at DARE graduation

BOURBON — Last Friday at Triton Jr.-Sr. High School a graduation ceremony was held for the fifth grade students that completed the nine-week Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. This year, as well as the children who vowed to resist the influences of drugs and alcohol, the former DARE officer for the Town of Bourbon, Gary Collins, was recognized for his dedicated efforts to the program, after they were cut short five weeks into the annual program as a result of his untimely death Feb. 4.
Bourbon Police Chief Bill Martin presented Triton Elementary Principal Jeremy Riffle with a DARE-related plaque with Officer Gary Collins’ photograph on it to display in the school to remember him and to remind children to stay true to their commitment. Culver officer John Duhnovsky had picked up where Collins left off and spoke at the ceremony, commending the children for their promise to stay free of the influences of drugs and alcohol. He noted that while instructing the students he had asked them how many of them had been pressured to do something they didn’t want to, by people who called themselves their friends. He said that every student had indicated (by raising their hands) that they had.
Marshall County Sheriff Tom Chamberlin spoke and commended the students. “Life is all about making good decisions. ... In 2011 3,100 people in Marshall County made the wrong choices,” he said. “These are not bad people, they are people that made bad choices and are paying the penalty. Their choices not only affect them, they affect their families, friends, their jobs and community.”
All the children received DARE-related merchandise, a T-shirt, a certificate of completion and pens that memorialized Collins. One child from each of the four fifth grade classes was selected as a contender for the essay contest competition. Each classroom finalist read their essays to the audience.
Aaron Milton admitted his parents had been to jail for drugs and described their struggle now to quit smoking. Samantha Burleson said, “Something I hate the most is marijuana. This drug is illegal and people still use it. That’s crazy!”
Megan McFarland said that she was sure officer Collins “was watching over the graduation from Heaven,” and added about her promise to remain drug and alcohol free, “I was given this brain and body from God and I want to be in control of it at all times.”
Chosen as the winner of the Triton contest, Shelby Rahe explained after hearing she had won she had “felt very excited and really happy to be in front of everybody as a leader.” In her moving essay she told that her parents had been incarcerated for selling illegal drugs.
“I haven’t seen them for eight years,” she said. “I breaks my heart to see someone messed up on drugs. ... Did you know that nine percent of eighth grade students have tried cigarettes? ... Twenty percent of eighth graders have tried alcohol.”
Rahe will have her name displayed on the DARE plaque at the elementary and her essay will be entered to compete in the county competition.