Today is National DARE day, but it doesn’t take a designated day for Cove educators and leaders to do something about the growing problems of youth and drugs and alcohol.
The Drug Abuse Resistance Education program was founded in 1983 to help school-age children develop necessary skills to avoid involvement in drugs, gangs and violence in its many forms, including bullying.
Although the Copperas Cove Police Department doesn’t have a DARE program, the department is active in schools. Officers participate in Red Ribbon Week and career days where they discuss the importance of abstaining from drugs and alcohol, as well as bullying and gun safety, Cpl. Dominique Moore said.
“The key to approaching youth is to make the subject interesting,” he said. “We play different types of games and have question-and-answer with small groups to help educate them on drugs and alcohol.”
A change in behavior, such as skipping school, lack of personal hygiene, and burn marks or soot on your child’s fingertips, is a sign of possible drug use. Some of the signs alone may just be normal behavioral changes, but when two or more signs appear, it may be necessary to speak to them, Moore said.
“Parents shouldn’t be afraid to talk to children about drugs either,” he said.
More importantly, the rise in the abuse of prescription medication is a national issue with youths, and parents need to ensure prescription medications are secured.
In the school system, Cove High School Coach Jack Welch continues youth education on the issues surrounding DARE principles.
Welch is the founder of The Communities Helping American’s Mature, Progress and Succeed program, or CHAMPS as it’s known.
The program, geared to seventh- to 12-graders, provides activities and educational information on anti-bullying, teen suicide and the abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs, Welch said.
DARE principles are incorporated into Cove’s program through musical concerts and assemblies, he said.
“During activities like the Texas Music Jam and the CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl, we share this information in handouts and through guest speakers,” Welch said.
It’s important for communities to find alternative programs and ways to connect students to activities that provide education on bullying and abuse of drugs and alcohol and to help prevent teen suicides, he said.
“Parents need to get involved with their children’s schools, watch them participate and encourage them,” he said. “They need to ask their children what they want to do and try to refrain from preaching.”
According to data from CHAMPS, about 25 percent of teens have used alcohol in the past month, and another 21 percent of seniors admit to using marijuana.
DARE also warns that gateway drugs like tobacco are used by many youths who eventually enter sequences of drug use that can include alcohol and marijuana.
Corinne Lincoln-Pinheiro | Herald