Kids honored at D.A.R.E. graduation

It takes a village, a community of parents, teachers, police and so many more to teach children how to make responsible decisions.

On May 10, fifteen 4th and 5th graders, who have been working with Shelter Island Police Officer Anthony Rando, told an audience in the school auditorium what they’ve learned in the way of life skills they believe will ensure their future success.

Essay winner Madison Sobejana talked about how the D.A.R.E. model of decision making has “made me more responsible for myself.”

“It takes a community to teach life skills,” said Police Chief Jim Read. The town’s first D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer, the chief spoke about the previous week’s town cleanup led by Lions Club members that involved students who were only 8-to-10-years old working side by side with Island volunteers, some of whom are in their 90s.

The fabric of a connected community working together establishes the groundwork for students in their formative years, the chief added.

“We’re investing in you to make great decisions,” said Todd Gulluscio, the schools’ director of athletics, physical education, health, wellness & personnel.

Students related how they’ve learned that 70 percent of their communication with others is the result of body language, not the words they speak. They spoke about resisting bullying and learning to turn to adults when necessary to deal with others. They said they learned they can report incidents anonymously when necessary and find adults willing to help alleviate difficult situations. Students said the program has taught them to handle stress, develop confidence and take responsibility for their own actions.

Two students were honored as top essay writers and read their works that explained how they have employed the D.A.R.E. model of avoiding drugs, alcohol and tobacco products and assessing their situations to improve their lives.

Essay winner Mae Brigham talked about how she resisted peer pressure to go along with a group of girls who wanted to exclude one of her friends. She chose, instead, not to join them, but stay with her friend who simply wanted friendship.

Madison Sobejana, the other essay winner, wrote about using the lessons she’s learned that have made her more responsible in her own behavior.

Afterwards, a celebratory luncheon was prepared by Chef Swainson Brown of the Pridwin for the graduates and their families.