Thanks to a collaboration between the Shelter Island Police Department and 5th graders at Shelter Island School, 12 students now know a great deal about responsible behavior and good decision-making.
The students demonstrated their knowledge June 1 for administrators, teachers, parents, town officials and friends at their DARE — Drug Abuse Resistance Education — graduation in the school auditorium.
The 10-session program is designed to teach students to resist peer pressure and be good citizens who are able to make wise choices in their lives.
Students are forced to look inward and step out of their comfort zones, said Officer Anthony Rando, who has been running the program at the school since 2016. For 23 years, the Police Department has offered the program to students, Chief Jim Read said.
He ran it for several years before former officer Walter Richards took it over and then Officer Rando took charge following Mr. Richards’ retirement from the department.
“Being a good citizen in a small community is really important,” the chief said, “I look at it as a partnership.”
During Officer Rando’s leadership, he’s initiated new features, including lunches with students to enhance communication. The officer credited 5th grade teacher Michele Yirce with helping to improve the lessons and encouraging students to be kinder to one another and to demonstrate accountability for their actions.
He’s been impressed with how the students have gained increased confidence in themselves and supported one another. Two students — Kenzie Montoya and Danae Carter — shared essays they wrote describing some of what they have learned through the program.
For Kenzie, it was the importance of making her own decisions and taking responsibility for them. Danae wrote about how little things can make a big difference in life and said she knows she’s capable of doing the right things.
Each of the students embraced meanings of specific words they’ve come to understand through the program — from how to handle stress, resist peer pressure and accept consequences of their actions to avoiding bullying, listening to others, being empathetic to the feelings of others and learning to understand nonverbal communications.
After each student received a certificate showing they have completed the program, Ali and Keith Bavaro of SALT celebrated the students with a barbecue lunch.