South Orangetown Central School District

Administrators, parents and community members gathered on January 10 to celebrate the Grade 6 DARE graduation at South Orangetown Middle School. “DARE” is the acronym for Define, Assess, Respond and Evaluate and the program focuses on healthy, positive decision-making with an emphasis on vaping, drug, alcohol and tobacco use prevention.

In his welcoming remarks, Principal Chad Corey encouraged students to rely on the information and strategies they had learned. “You will be faced with difficult decisions after this program and it will be important how you assess, evaluate and respond to your decisions during middle school, high school and beyond,” he advised.

“The DARE program was founded in 1980 and when I went through it, they said to ‘Just say no.’ That isn’t enough now,” explained Orangetown Police Department Officer Amaury Lopez, who shares DARE program leadership at SOMS with fellow OPD officer Elizabeth Muckell. “Today, the DARE program gives you the skills to face the challenges you will encounter and to build social skills to prevent bullying.”

Muckell reminded graduates to be critical thinkers and value their own wellbeing. “You have to treat your body well. These vaping companies are using you as a guinea pig to test their products. You need to be selective about what you put into your body and also selective about the friendships you make,” she said. “Remember, perception is not fact. Just because someone looks like they are happy or have no problems that might not be true. Everyone struggles even when it does not look like it.”

DARE poster contest winners Nicole A., Haley A., Adrian K., and Giuliana L. were during the ceremony.

“It’s my job to put others before myself, even though it may be difficult sometimes. I ask that you do the same if you see someone else making a bad choice,” added Superintendent of Schools Robert Pritchard, before expressing his thanks to the parents in attendance. “Ninety-five percent of a child’s success is determined at home. You are your child’s primary role model. Congratulations to everyone.”

DARE Graduation SOMS