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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November 30

Love Yourself


The holiday season should be all about love.  However, the first person you need to learn to love is YOU.  When you love and take care of yourself, your light will shine and that love will spread.

Our life is a constant conversation to ourselves.  We get upset with ourselves.  We judge ourselves.  We refuse to forgive ourselves; and we certainly don’t allow ourselves to forget our mistakes.  We use many harsh words toward ourselves that we would never use toward someone else.  This holiday season, let’s cut ourselves a break, and treat ourselves the way we would want others to treat us. 

  • No harsh words…loving words only (pay attention to our “self” words)
  • Encourage
  • Never doubt
  • Forgive
  • Be true
  • Believe
  • Respect
  • Accept
  • Treat your body in healthy ways
  • Let go of the past
  • Realize that you are perfect, peaceful, and powerful


Learn to love YOU first, the rest will follow!

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November 15

DARE to Be Amazing!!


“Overcome the notion that you must be regular.  It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.”

–Uta Hagen


You are not just regular or average; you are amazing!!!  Everyone has their own special gifts and talents.  No two people are exactly alike.  It is your job to find what it is you love; what really interests you; what you are really good at; and chances are it is something that makes you special. 

Don’t try to be like everyone else.   Do not let anyone else tell you that you are less than amazing.   Just try to be the best “YOU.” 

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October 25

Up, Up, and Away!



This has been a trying week, as is often the case for many of us; young and old.  Sometimes it feels like a rollercoaster ride; one minute you are up and the next minute you are down.  Many may criticize our every move and discourage us by telling us it can’t be done.  We need to remind ourselves that you must stay on the ride and see it to the end.  In order to do that, you may have to face some fears and challenges.  This is all a part of the ride on your way to achieving your dreams.

Last year I found out my father had a hot air balloon ride, on his bucket list, of things he wanted to enjoy.  He would be celebrating his 80th birthday and most would tell him that it was too late for him to achieve this dream.  I disagreed.  One of my older sisters and I bought him two tickets for a balloon ride in Stillwater, MN.  He lives in Iowa so this had to be a well scheduled event.  The balloons cannot fly in bad weather and the fall of 2013 was a year for a lot of bad weather.  Many balloon rides had to rescheduled.  He would be coming to Minnesota for only a short time so we only had one back up date during his visit.  We scheduled the balloon ride and were reminded that it is very seldom people get to ride the first date scheduled.  Well guess what?  We were one of those few cases, that had a picture perfect day, on our scheduled date.  My father was a little nervous but also excited.  If I was prepared to ask him to face this fear to achieve his dream, I was going to have to be prepared to face it with him; I used the second ticket.  My dad, proudly, was able to accomplish the high climb into the basket with his camera in hand.  Others, riding with us, celebrated his  achievement that day.  Together, he and I, were able to float together sharing his dream.  It was amazing!!

Do not let others take away your energy.  I almost gave up many times this week and said it would be just easier to quit.  My father and I could have easily given in to those who said this balloon ride was not possible. 

We can give in to the first challenge or our fear of failure.  Remember, we are all afraid at times and we all face negative people.  Do not give into temptations that put additional obstacles in your way.   I am not telling you to go out and do something dangerous and you must listen to your parents.  I am telling you that it is okay to have dreams even if others tell you it is impossible.  It is also okay and necessary to face your fears of failure, if you are going achieve those dreams.


Kathi Ackerman, MSW, LGSW, LADC

Executive Director, Minnesota D.A.R.E., Inc.





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October 19

Helping Others



I recently read the following quote:

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.  And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

–Tenzin Gyatso

In addition to being the Director of the Minnesota D.A.R.E. program, I am also a Medical Social Worker for a Home Health and Hospice program just outside the Minneapolis metro area.  I spend several hours a week assisting people who are severely ill and/or dying.  When I’m asked why I would want to work with the dying, I always answer that it is how I can help others and, in return, they teach me about life.  These patients are looking back on their life much differently than you and I.  They can easily see that their purpose in life is to be there to help others.  These are the positive times that they remember, hold on to, and tell me they will miss.

You can help others too!

When you see others struggling at school; maybe people are bullying, teasing, and harassing them; you can help them.  IF you can’t, “at least don’t hurt them.”  Do not join in.  Do no laugh with the bullies.  If you would just reach out to that student, it would make a world of difference to them and you.  Others will trust you a whole lot more than the bully.

Think how much it would mean to you to have someone reach out to help you and how good you will feel when you do it!

Kathi Ackerman, Executive Director

Minnesota D.A.R.E., Inc.



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October 4

Show Your True Colors!


Did you know that the bright colors of fall are always present in leaves? These colors are hidden by chlorophyll until fall arrives.  In the fall, the days get shorter; as the chlorophyll fades, the hidden colors in a leaf begin to show.  We love to see those true colors!

We sometimes hide our true colors too.  We change who we really are to try to be like we “think” we should be; these ideas hide our colors.  However, we are not all alike.  We each have our own gifts and talents.  Those are the things that come easy to us and are things we love to do.  They make us feel happy.  Just like the colors of the leaves on the trees, they make us feel bright and beautiful.  They make us shine! 

We also need to recognize these gifts and talents in others and accept their true colors.  A true friend will accept you and your true colors.  You cannot change others you can only accept them.  You can only change yourself. 

Show your true colors and DARE to be Amazing!!! 

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September 28

You Have the Power!


As a new school year begins, you  will have important choices to make everyday.  Some decisions will take you down a path that may cause you to stumble; the way may be dark and dangerous.  Other choices will help you stay on the road toward your dreams. 

We all make mistakes along the way.  When that happens we need to evaluate our role, learn, and move forward.  Take responsibility for your actions; correct your mistakes. Beating yourself up for making a poor choice will not change the past  We can learn from our mistakes and we can choose to make better choices today. 

Everyone’s path in life is different, thank goodness.  Wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same?  You will need to find your own way. Don’t waste your energy judging someone else.  Use that energy to take care of yourself or being helpful to others.

Ask the positive adults in your life and good friends to help you make your decisions.  Those adult may have already been in a similar situation and you can learn from their experiences and mistakes.  Don’t allow others, who do not have your best interest in mind, have power over your decisions.

Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and Lion in the Wizard of Oz had to learn; they had the power all along.  Find your power and use your  power for good!

Kathi Ackerman, MSW, LGSW, LADC

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July 8

Welcome to Our Kid’s Blog!!!

Welcome to our Minnesota D.A.R.E. Kid’s Blog!!!  This page has been set up to contain posts, articles, and information for our current students, our upcoming students, and our alumni.  We want to offer you a page where you can gain a little more information on topics that impact your age group.  We will also be inviting others, in our field, to help us with some helpful articles.  Keep an eye on our Facebook page/posts to see that latest articles as they are posted!

Have a great summer!  Stay safe!

Kathi Ackerman, MSW, LGSW, LADC

Executive Director, Minnesota D.A.R.E., Inc.


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