RUMFORD — About 350 people packed Mountain Valley High School auditorium on Thursday night to celebrate the graduation of 123 fifth-grade students from the Rumford Police Department’s 23rd annual Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program.
Many received free athletic sports balls and DARE merchandise, along with certificates and other awards through participation in the five-month program. It was taught by Cpl. Douglas Maifeld and Sgt. Tracey Higley at Meroby and Rumford elementary schools, and Holy Savior School.
The children also listened to guest speaker Sarah Long of WGME 13 extol the virtues of making good choices.
“In order to succeed, you need to dare to follow your heart,” Long said. “Throughout my life there have been many times when I’ve been nervous or even scared. The people I choose to have in my life are people who’ve helped me during those times.”
She said they helped her dare to overcome her nervousness and fears, like when she spent five years working atop New Hampshire’s Mount Washington — home to the world’s worst weather — while learning to become a meteorologist.
“They’ve helped me become a better person in the adult that I am today, and a meteorologist,” Long said.
She reminded the graduates that they are surrounded by family, friends and mentors, who were there to support them.
“As you continue to grow and come into your own, you’ll have many obstacles that you’ll come across in your life,” Long said. “You won’t outgrow times when you get nervous; I can attest to that. You won’t outgrow times when you’ll have to make tough decisions, and you won’t outgrow the times when you get scared, but those are the times when you need to dare to follow your heart, dare to do what’s right, and dare to do what may be hard to do.”
“Those are the times when you will need your friends, your family and your mentors. Continue to dare for yourself and you’ll be amazed at how many people are willing to be there for you, and you will be amazed at the things that you are able to accomplish. Congratulations to all of you,” she said.
After six students were awarded medals and gifts for designing winning license plates that show how they feel about themselves, another half dozen read their winning “Taking A Stand” essays about DARE and what they learned.
Stephen Nokes of Holy Savior School spoke about the dangers of drugs.
“The steps that I learned in DARE will help me in my life,” Nokes said. “One of the most important things I learned in DARE, is that I have the power to control my actions and speak up for myself and others.”
“I don’t do drugs because I do sports and that would slow me down,” Cameron Bouchard of Meroby Elementary School read from his essay. “I know drugs are bad for your body because my DARE instructor taught me all about it and how to stay drug-free.”
Bouchard also told children to “try at all costs” to stop bullying.
Cheyenne May of Meroby Elementary School told people to be brave enough to stand up to and stop bullying, “because I have to be brave and stand up here and read this to you.”