Seventy sixth-graders at Malabar Intermediate School graduated from the 12-week D.A.R.E. program Friday as Officer Jack Shay nears the end of his 15-year tenure as head of the alcohol and drug awareness program.
Shay will retire next month after more than 20 years with the Mansfield Police Department.
Also on Friday, faculty and staff at Malabar wore purple in honor of librarian Maxine Johnson who passed away recently. During the board of education meeting at Malabar on Feb. 21 the library will be named in honor of Mrs. Johnson, a 33-year employee of Mansfield City Schools.
The D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) graduation drew parents and other relatives of the sixth-graders. “I want to thank all of the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are here today,” Shay said. “It’s important that you be here today. But all of the information they (students) got from me or the shirts and awards they receive today won’t make them drug-proof. They know that. You can’t make them drug-free. Only the choices they make can do that.”
Deputy Chief of Police Keith Porch echoed Shay’s comments as he addressed the sixth-graders. “I pray that what you learned from Officer Shay the last 12 weeks will stay with you,” he said. “You will have a decision to make one day. A friend may say, ‘Hey, let’s try this.’ Our hope is that you choose a path of not using drugs or alcohol. I can tell you from what I have seen as a police officer: Alcohol and drug abuse ruins families. Families who need help can always reach out to the police department.”
Porch also reaffirmed his department’s support for the D.A.R.E. program, even if it faces manpower issues. “Never will we pull an officer away from D.A.R.E. That’s how strongly we feel about it. D.A.R.E. always will be a priority,” he said.
All graduates received MPD T-shirts which proclaim “Drugs have no power over you – unless you let them.” Three students from each of the three classes earned awards for their D.A.R.E. essays.
Students applauded a demonstration by Officer Kory Kaufman and his K-9 partner, Denise. The 3-year-old, 60-pound German Shepherd, acquired from Europe, is trained in drug detection, tracking and pursuit.
Kaufman explained that Denise is the product of a 100-year-old bloodline of dogs trained specifically for such work.
“If you were to buy her, it would cost you about $7,500,” he told students.
Photo: Mansfield City Schools