Stearns County D.A.R.E. officer Tim Kantos welcomed the parents and grandparents to the graduation program for the students. Guest speakers for the program were Tom Keating, student assistance program coordinator for the Monticello School District and Craig Sauer, linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons.
Keating told the students that Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz was probably the first D.A.R.E. graduate. Why? Because she had to use a lot of tools and skills to make the journey to Oz. ďIf you live a drug free life you need tools to stay clean and proud,Ē Keating told the students.
ďThe course might be done, but you need to continue practicing the skills you learned to help each other. Dorothy helped the Tin Man find his heart, the Scarecrow his brain and the Lion his courage. They already had these features, they just needed someone to help them find them. You can help teach other kids to live a drug free lifestyle,Ē Keating said.
ďLife is a gift,Ē Keating told the students. ďAnd the most important gift is your mind...so donít trash your mind. It is the key to your future. Develop your gifts and give something back to society.Ē
Keating used Ryan Knisley in a skit trying to talk him into using cigarettes. Ryan kept saying no to every approach Keating used. Keating added research shows 11 years old is the average age when kids start using drugs.
Keating urged the kids to turn to their parents when they have problems or questions. Review your D.A.R.E. skills. Like so many other things, if you donít use it, you lose it.
Keating told the parents in attendance there are three things they need to do to help their children: 1) Continue to help them feel important. If they donít feel important, they are more likely to get trapped in at-risk activities...seeking gratification from someone else. ďYou, as parents, canít forget to tell your children how important they are to you and that you are glad they are a part of the family,Ē he added.
2) Affirmation. Provide your child with positive strokes. ďTell your children they do a nice job at cleaning their room, shoveling snow, or helping around the house,Ē Keating said. ďMake them feel like they make a difference.Ē
3) Provide children with a sense of belonging. Children donít want to be alone. They need to have an identity, he added. If they donít get that sense of belonging from you, they will seek it elsewhere. As parents, help your child feel like they belong..Fill that empty void in their lives.
ďLife can get too serious at times, so letís not forget how to have fun with our children,Ē he told parents.
Craig Sauer of the Atlanta Falcons talked about goals with the students. He urged them to keep their mind on track and to stay drug free. ďWrite down your goals and the steps you plan to take to reach those goals. By writing things down you can double check where you have been and where you are headed so you know you are headed in the right direction. The choices you make in life can hinder your progress. There are no short cuts to success. Short cuts might only delay your progress.
ďYou all have special talents,Ē Sauer told the students. ďTake a chance and improve your talents. Donít listen to others who would discourage you from developing your talents. Donít say you canít do something. You donít want to be left behind...shoot for the stars, you might get to the moon,Ē he added.
Kantos read a letter from President Bill Clinton congratulating the class on completing the D.A.R.E. program. Clinton said he was proud of their decision to make their lives drug free and hope they continue to make wise choices in the future. Senator Michelle Fischbach also sent a letter of congratulations to the students stating she was proud they made the commitment to stay drug free.
Special guests in attendance were Paynesville Mayor Jeff Thompson, Stearns County Sheriff Jim Kostreba, and Paynesville Police Chief Bill Drager.
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