WEST POINT -- If there was one thing Davis County Sheriff Deputy Geoffry Hasty learned during his first year as an officer with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, it was how excited students were to see him.
As long as he had stickers, that is.
Hasty joked during the graduation for sixth-grade students Friday at West Point Elementary School that when he first showed up to the school, he was most popular when he had stickers to pass out. He said he learned quickly to always have stickers.
The keynote speaker of the ceremony was Lt. Governor Greg Bell, who told the students the importance of staying away from drugs and how they will have very important life decisions to make soon.
"They are starting to define who they are," Bell said. "As I look down the road, by ninth grade some of them will make decisions that will put them in the path of addiction and drugs."
Bell also told the students how important it is to get an education, and how he gets letters from mothers whose children have died because of drugs. Bell told the students not to be one of those stories.
That is where the D.A.R.E. program comes in, and why graduations like the one on Friday are critical in educating youngsters early in their lives.
"It just reminds me how wonderful the D.A.R.E. program is and how important it is for us as a community to work together so that we can collectively ensure the safety of our kids," said Hasty, who also is the D.A.R.E. officer at nearby Lakeside Elementary School.
The ceremony featured the essay winners from each of the four sixth-grade classes. Laden Schofield, Ashleigh Banks, Ari Soehl and Lizzy Delong read their essays and told the parents in attendance what they learned during the 10-week D.A.R.E. program.
"Alcohol is illegal for anyone under the age of 21," Banks said. "Teen bodies are still growing; therefore, alcohol affects them more severely than adults. Alcohol slows down the brain and it slurs your speech."
"I learned that drugs are very bad for your body," Soehl said. "Drugs can affect your eyesight. It is very important to stay away from drugs. They are very bad for you."
The D.A.R.E. program was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and has proven so successful that it is now being implemented in 75 percent of the nation's school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world. It is a police officer-led series of classroom lessons that teaches children how to resist peer pressure and live productive drug- and violence-free lives.
"This is a great opportunity for the parents to recognize what they've done as well," said West Point Mayor Erik Craythorne, who went to West Point Elementary along with his wife, Jil. "The D.A.R.E program is great. It allows the kids to be recognized for going through the program and learning how to make the choices that are upcoming in their lives."
According to its website, D.A.R.E. goes beyond traditional drug abuse and violence prevention programs. It gives children the skills needed to recognize and resist the subtle and overt pressures that cause them to experiment with drugs or become involved in gangs or violent activities.
"It gives them the tools to understand the truth and facts about drugs, alcohol and tobacco and prepare them for upcoming problems like peer pressure and things that they are going to encounter when they get older," Hasty said.
"It's a fantastic program that really needs to be implemented in every school across the United States if it is not already."