LOWER BURRELL - Officer John Marhefka of the Lower Burrell Police Department spoke about its DARE program last week at the Lower Burrell Rotary Club.
Nina Santucci, a Burrell sixth grader, joined him to share her perspective on the program.
Marhefka explained the DARE - or Drug Awareness Resistance Education - program, which started in 1983 on the west coast. Since then, it has expanded into an international effort with the mission of preventing the use of controlled substances as well as gang participation and violence.
According to Marhefka, the underlying reason for the vast majority of arrests is illicit drug use.
As he spoke on the benefits of the DARE program, Marhefka stopped and asked Nina to recite her A-B-C's. She did, but with a twist - singing the song with her mouth completely closed.
The point of the excercise, according to Marhefka, was not to showcase Nina's distinctive talent, but to illustrate how the DARE program's strongest element is the relationships built between students and civic and service people.
During the presentation, Burrell School District superintendent Shannon Wagner emphasized that the district has a zero tolerance policy for drugs.
"In the past," she said, "we would only expel the students who dealt (drugs). "Now we expel anyone with possession of any type of narcotic."
Marhefka made it clear that what is going on is a war on drugs. From the moment a child steps out of their home, he said, they are bombarded by outside pressures.
Wagner credits the DARE program with creating well-rounded children and adults. "This provides a sound foundation for the coming generations of our community," she said. "Through example, the DARE program develops the future contributors of service."Return to WEDIG Homepage