Chatfield fifth grade students received their DARE graduation certificates during the ceremony on March 20. From left are Chatfield Elementary School Principal Craig Ihrke, Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen, Chatfield Police Chief Shane Fox, Chatfield Police Officer Aaron Miliander and fifth grade teacher Jay Harstad.
Chatfield fifth grade students received their DARE graduation certificates during the ceremony on March 20. From left are Chatfield Elementary School Principal Craig Ihrke, Fillmore County Sheriff Daryl Jensen, Chatfield Police Chief Shane Fox, Chatfield Police Officer Aaron Miliander and fifth grade teacher Jay Harstad.
DARE to be a model.

Work that black t-shirt on the cafeteria walk.

"I think the DARE decision-making model transcends any situations or decisions you need to make," said Chatfield Elementary School Principal Craig Ihrke, speaking to approximately 60 fifth grade students who were graduating from the Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education (DARE) program on Wednesday afternoon, March 20.

Ihrke outlined the four tenets of the DARE decision-making model as the t-shirt-clad students listened.

"The first part of the DARE model is to 'define,' or figure out what the problem is. Once you know what it is, you can 'assess' what to do about it and make a plan, ask yourself the question, 'What will happen if I take drugs?'" Ihrke continued. "I hope you've figured out that drugs have a lot of dangerous things involved with them."

After that, Ihrke told the students, they can "respond" after they weigh the pros and cons of the situation. Then, they can come to a decision and respond to the situation.

"Sometimes, with a friend, that's hard to do because you want to continue hanging out with them, but if they're doing something that could hurt someone, you might lose a friend, but you have to do what's right," he added.

Finally, students must "evaluate" their choices, determining whether they have made a good decision or not.

"You won't always make the best decisions, but that's OK," Ihrke said. "There are a lot of gray areas in making decisions. Congratulations on completing the DARE program."

Chatfield Police Officer Aaron Miliander addressed the students next, as he was the officer who taught the DARE course.

"You've learned a lot of life skills, like how to make safe, responsible, healthy choices, what the signs of stress are and how to deal with it, and even some about bullying," he said. "The DARE decision-making model is a series of steps that help with those decisions, and you learned the importance of making responsible decisions and what the consequences are."

He introduced the students whose DARE posters in the DARE poster contest were chosen for consideration in the next level of competition, noting that Minnesota's professional ball and hockey teams take turns sponsoring the contest. This year, the winners of the state contest will be given the opportunity to throw out the first ball at an opening Twins game in April. "This year's posters belong to Lauryn Radcliff, Jaden Danninger and Teagan Allen. Congratulations."

Students whose essays best represented DARE's mission were Aryn Daniels, Grant Griffin and Beatrice Martin. Daniels read her essay to the audience, citing that "smoking can do many terrible things to your body...people who use drugs can't live a long, happy life."

She also added, "I learned that the DARE decision-making model can help me a lot, that it can help me make good decisions. It can also help me make decisions not related to drugs. I always want to be a good student."

Miliander gave each of the six students a DARE drawstring backpack as a prize.

Certificates were then presented to the students by class, after which Miliander made some closing remarks to the graduates.

"You are now DARE graduates," he began, answered by an enthusiastic "Yeah!" from the students, "and your younger brothers and sisters look up to you. I want you to be the best role models you can be for them."

Parents, grandparents and students in attendance at the graduation were treated to milk and warm chocolate chip cookies following the ceremony.