FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
After 10 weeks of education and training, several Fairchild elementary school students completed the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program with a summer camp finale.
Founded in Los Angeles 24 years ago and now an international program, DARE America is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons geared for children from kindergarten through 12th grade to gain skills to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs and violence and to resist peer pressure and live healthy lives.
"The focus of the program is teamwork," said Susan Conard, Fairchild's DARE officer. "Teamwork will help the kids get through obstacles as well as peer pressure. It can help them face challenges in a more effective way."
During the 10 weeks, Ms. Conard, who received her DARE officer training in Spokane from Washington State Criminal Justice System, teaches students numerous techniques, developed from the program's curriculum, to "stay and get out of risky situations" by showing them how to say 'No,' walk away, avoid the situation or use a repeated refusal method, just to name a few.
"The program teaches you that if you do drugs, whether or not you get caught, you will end up getting in trouble or hurt in some way," said Gage Oldenburg, an 11-year-old attending Fairchild's Michael Anderson Elementary School. "I also learned to show my friends different ways to have fun such as exercising and playing games."
"I signed up for the program because I knew it would be fun, and I wanted to learn what drugs could do to your body," said MaKenzie Oldenburg, Gage's 9-year-old sister.
Once students finish the program, they must write an essay to demonstrate their knowledge about drugs and violence in order to graduate. Only the program graduates will have the opportunity to attend the five-day camp unique to Fairchild, which is filled with challenging, fun activities from sports to obstacles, supervised by DARE mentors.
The mentor opportunity is open to all ranks. Currently, the Fairchild DARE mentors consist of airmen and non-commissioned officers who are recommended by their supervisors and who enjoy motivating children.
"At the end of the Camp season, you get this great feeling that you made a difference in a child's life," said Senior Airman Brandy Elliott, a financial analyst with the 92d Comptroller Squadron and a DARE camp mentor. "You have an opportunity to teach kids skills to say no to drugs and ways to deal with peer pressure. Sometimes it could be challenging to discipline them and say no, but at the end of the day, you earn their respect and their friendship."
Parents are also encouraged to be involved in the camp activities.
"I see how much fun my children are having while learning great things about staying away from drugs. I would highly encourage all parents to involve their children in this program," said Laura Oldenburg.
DARE camp's funding is through Security Forces Defenders' Association's annual golf tournament along with the support from Fairchild's Top Three and First Sergeants' associations. The money raised provides food, supplies and fees for activities held during the five days.
"If we can get one child who is approached by peers to take part in drugs, to put courage before fear and say 'No' confidently with a strong eye contact and posture, then we have accomplished our goal of educating our young people," added Ms. Conard.
Fairchild is the only AMC base which holds a DARE camp after the 10-week educational campaign. For more information on DARE America, visit www.dareamerica.com