Eastchester Police Officers Stephen DiLegge and Officer Joseph Pegna meet with
fifth-graders at Greenvale and Anne Hutchinson as part of the Drug Abuse
Resistance Education Program, commonly referred to as DARE.
The program has evolved over time and now focuses on the theme, "D.A.R.E. keepin' it REAL." During the 40-minute sessions, officers discuss vital issues that face young people in today's world and emphasize risk-taking and making correct choices. Students watch short videos, involve themselves in active discussions and review lessons in a workbook.
One of the topics is peer pressure - what it is and how to overcome it. Officer DiLegge asked Greenvale students to push their hands together. "What did you feel?" he asked. Officer DiLegge then said, "Pressure."
This demonstration acted as a tangible way of representing the issue. Students then discussed risky behaviors and acted out skits to show how they can control situations where drugs, alcohol and smoking take center stage.
Student Melissa Betitta said, "DARE helps because it teaches us facts about our health and what we should avoid."
Officer Pegna discussed stress with students at Anne Hutchinson and explained that it is normal, but that there are positive ways to relieve these feelings.
At the beginning of each session, two students receive the honor of holding the DARE mascot "Daren," a stuffed lion. In the wild, a lion must show courage and be a leader. Two positive attributes DARE encourages.
The classes offer other benefits. "What is apparent," said Officer Pegna, "is that many of the students do not know anyone in law enforcement and feel intimidated. DARE allows them to become comfortable with police officers."
Fifth-grader Nuwa Serunjogi finds value in each session. "I really like how we can learn about resisting certain situations and acting them out
."DARE runs for 11 weeks at Anne Hutchinson and Greenvale.