Today, the program continues in its effort in deterring kids from drugs, preventing bullying, joining gangs and displaying other violent acts.
Parrish Police Officer Steven Yarbrough heads up the D.A.R.E. program at Parrish Elementary School, and he notices a change in the students’ behavior already.
Yarbrough spearheaded the program in January 2013 at the small town’s elementary school.
“The progress that I’ve seen with the kids is that there’s less bullying, less fighting. Actually, we haven’t had any that I’ve taken notice of while being here,” Yarbrough said. “I’m not saying that there haven’t been any disagreements, but part of the program is to teach conflict resolution to them on how to referee your own situation, even with a third party.”
There is a new curriculum with the D.A.R.E. program called “keepin’ it REAL,” which is elementary-based skills that help teach the basics of self-awareness and management, responsible decision making, understanding others, relationship and communication skills, and handling responsibilities and challenges.
“Keepin’ it REAL” is an interactive program that includes a DVD which uses real and animated characters who are placed in tough situations relating to the pressures of today’s youth.
Students also receive workbooks that go along with the DVD. The kids can then read and answer questions, complete crossword puzzles and word searches, and other activities.
Each grade, kindergarten through sixth, participates in the program in some way; however, each grade is alloted a specific amount of time for the program.
Pre-K receives 15-minute visitations where Yarbrough will visit and educate the younger students on the program; first through third grades receive three weeks of the program; fourth grade receives four weeks; fifth grade receives visitations during four weeks of the program; and sixth grade completes the full 10-week program before exiting and receiving their certificates.
On Thursday, Jan. 30, Yarbrough along with Parrish Mayor Cedric Ramsey and assistant police chief Ken Marbury held a ceremony for sixth graders who were exiting this year’s program. Yarbrough handed each child his or her certificate while Ramsey shook their hands and Marbury gave them gift bags.
“The officer is their friend because a while back the students were sort of frightened of the police officer. They didn’t think that that’s their help or they weren’t here for them, and that’s what we’re trying to change to get that image different and to educate the kids about drugs, safety and counseling,” Ramsey said. “Things like that will help our community, especially if you start at an early age helping these kids and educating them.”
The City of Parrish hired Yarbrough as a full-time school resource officer for both the elementary school and high school after Christmas 2012, according to Parrish Elementary Principal Chris Walton.
“I love it. It just teaches our kids good habits. It teaches them about saying no, staying away from drugs,” Walton said. “It’s just opened their eyes up to the world outside that they may not know about. Officer Yarbrough’s and our goal is to always plant good seeds in these kids’ minds so that when they get out of here and start their lives, they’ll have a positive outlook on life and see life for what it is and not be pulled into something negative.
“He’s been a God-send to us. He’s always here upbeat. The kids adore him,” he continued, speaking of Yarbrough. “The community is behind it after all the [nationwide] shootings that have taken place. We got him right after Sandy Hook last year. He’s just a great role model for these kids.”
After each kid received his or her certificate and gift bag, three essay winners were announced — Skylar Hice, Hannah Hendon and Kallie Capkovic. Not only do the faculty and staff enjoy having Yarbrough and the program around, but the students at Parrish Elementary do as well.
Eleven-year-old Anna Clark said, “It’s a good way for us to learn what not to do and what to do, and how to learn if something bad happens what we can do to help. I think it’s a really good thing because he [Yarbrough] is helping us a lot in learning about drugs and how to not do them. I think he helps us and makes us feel safer.”