FAMU DRS sends off first D.A.R.E. class

Florida A&M University Police Department conducted its first Drug Abuse Resistance Education graduation ceremony at FAMU Developmental Research School Thursday. Speakers encouraged students to stay drug and alcohol free.

“It’s the first year FAMUPD has actually had an officer to teach at (FAMU DRS),” said Erica Herring, the only FAMU Department of Public Safety D.A.R.E. officer. “In the past they had TPD (Tallahassee Police Department).”

James Lockley, assistant chief of police for FAMUPD said in previous years the City of Tallahassee has been funding the D.A.R.E. program but FAMU DRS wanted to use their own police officers.

“Because the city has the program, they allowed (FAMU DRS) to be a part of the program,” Lockley said. “(FAMU DRS) came up with funding and (FAMUPD) sent an officer for training and dedicated that officer to the program since (FAMU DRS) put the funding for the officer’s salary in their budget.”

Herring said FAMU DRS will be the only school in Leon county to have its D.A.R.E program survive city budget cuts.

“It is a sad thing because (D.A.R.E.) is a good program, but due to the city’s budget (other schools in Leon County) won’t have it.” Herring said. “DRS is fortunate and blessed it won’t affect them.”

Some parents of the 42 fifth and sixth grade graduates are also pleased that the program will go on and are proud of their child’s progress.

“I commend FAMUPD because they stepped in and kept the program alive,” said Katisa Donaldson, mother of Matthew Donaldson, the sixth grade D.A.R.E. essay award recipient. “(Matthew) is the recipient of the essay award. I am proud of him. I can see a change in his behavior as related to his younger siblings. ”

Rose Campbell, FAMU DRS elementary principal said she has also noticed improvements in the behavior of the students.

“D.A.R.E. teaches good character skills for our students,” Campbell said. “Students act more informed, they demonstrate a higher level of maturity, and a greater degree of respect for themselves and others.”

Erika Willis, a D.A.R.E. graduate also said the program is important and encouraged her to make wise decisions in life.

“(D.A.R.E.) It inspired me to do better with being in charge and standing up for myself,” Willis said.

Herring said she hopes the graduates learned from the experience and will remain drug and alcohol free.

“I wanted them to make positive choices in life, maintain good self-esteem, and say no to drugs and alcohol,” Herring said.