December 13

D.A.R.E.: Much More Than “Just Say ‘No’ to Drugs”



Right now, hundreds of D.AR.E graduations are going on around Minnesota.  These are in recognition of the work done by thousands of students during the fall semester.  The above picture was taken at a Taylors Falls graduation (Lino Lakes Police Dept.) this past week. 

In just a few short weeks, the D.A.R.E. officers will head back to the classrooms to start our spring semester.  Over the past 25 yrs., Minnesota D.A.R.E. Officers have instructed well over a million students!

While at a graduation this past week in Monticello, hosted by the Wright County Sheriff’s Office – DARE Officer Craig Canton, I heard a fantastic essay from a student.  I had to ask the officer for a copy as she did such an amazing job explaining the D.A.R.E. program. 

This essay (a part of the D.A.R.E. program) was written by: Maddox, in 5th grade at Little Mountain Elementary.  Her teacher is Mrs. Nygaaards and they are with Monticello School District 882.

D.A.R.E.: Much More Than “Just Say ‘No’ to Drugs”

When you spell out the acronym D.A.R.E. as “Drug Abuse Resistance Education” your initial reaction is that this is going to be education and training about drugs, such as cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco. Although drugs and drug use, misuse, abuse, and prevention are important parts of D.A.R.E., D.A.R.E. is actually so much more. D.A.R.E. is about:

· Making safe, healthy choices every day;

· Developing resistance strategies to help with these informed, wise choices;

· Managing stress and peer pressure;

· Communicating clearly, confidently, and effectively;

· Identifying and reporting bullying, both the bullied and the bullies.

Without question, these same strategies and tactics may be related to and used for drugs, but they can also be used in everyday life. To me, this is the real power of D.A.R.E.

One aspect of the D.A.R.E. approach and process that I have found very helpful and informative is the D.A.R.E. Decision-Making Model (DDMM). I am a Peer Mediator at Little Mountain Elementary and the DDMM steps of Define, Assess, Respond, and Evaluate (DARE) have been helpful and logical in defining and resolving the issues, concerns, and challenges when dealing with conflicts between peers. Although I cannot discuss specific Peer Mediation cases or examples, the DDMM steps have been crucial to resolving these cases efficiently and effectively. It is also helpful that the DDMM steps can be abbreviated to DARE since this helps me remember and follow the steps in a logical and practical way. With such great results, I will continue to use the DDMM steps in both peer mediation and everyday life.

I promise to use the D.A.R.E. approach and process and the D.A.R.E. Decision-Making Model to not only understand and deal with drugs, drug awareness, and drug use, misuse, abuse, and prevention, but also:

· To make informed, safe, healthy decisions every day;

· To manage stress and peer pressure;

· To communicate clearly and effectively;

· To battle bullying, and to deal with other conflicts in everyday life.

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December 6

Maybe…Just Maybe…Adults Know Something


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Okay, maybe we cannot figure out our cell phone.  Maybe we do not understand social media.  Our text messages come out funny.  We try to speak your language and fail miserably.  But maybe, just maybe, we know a lot about life.

I am also a Medical Social Worker  and counsel people who are chronically ill and/or dying.  People ask me why I do this on top of my full time job with Minnesota D.A.R.E.  It is an easy answer for me, “to learn about life.”

This week, I went to see a 99 yr old patient who had just lost his wife.  His daughter went to get him up from his nap and he was struggling with his walker to come out to visit with me.  He stopped halfway and told me he needed to stop for a minute.  I asked him if he was just exhausted or if he was in pain.  He states, “Why does everyone come in and ask me if I’m in pain.  I’m not in any pain but I want a new question.”  I asked him what he would like me to ask him.  He replied, “Ask if I’m wealthy.”  I replied to him, with that question.  He returned with, “No, but you are the social worker, help me.”  This was the beginning of an incredible visit with a man, who has seen many years, and knows the meaning of having fun.

I was talking to his daughter and asked if there were any problems with his medications.  She said, “What medication?  He is only taking 1/2 an aspirin a day.”  This incredible man, at 99, has figured out that laughter is the best medicine.  Can you imagine being that age and taking no medications?

It took me no time, during this visit, to figure out that he was the master and I was the student.  I was talking to him about his family history and asked how long he was married.  He responded, “59 years.”  I asked if they were high school sweethearts (thinking that most of my patients in their 90’s came from a time when they married young)?”  He came back quickly with, “Yeah, I was in high school at age 40.” (Do the math and you will figure that out.)  By then, this visit had me in stitches.  His medical record said he had early dementia!  Maybe I should have been the one being assessed for dementia!!  He was sharp as a tack.

This wonderful man, contained so much valuable information, if only people will take the time to listen.  This man spend 3 yrs. as a medic in the army, during WWII.  He understands challenges better than any of the rest of us.  He may not know how to use my computer but he knows how to make people laugh.  At 99, he has been faced heartache, and survived.  He knows how to communicate, the value of honesty, and the importance of love and family.

Don’t just dismiss the adults in your life.  Listen to them.  Cherish their words.  Spend time with them.  They may be the individuals who make the best friends because they know the value of love and  friendship.

Kathi Ackerman, MSW, LGSW, LADC

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