MEXICO — Fifth-grade students from Meroby and Rumford elementary schools and Holy Savior School graduated Tuesday night from the Rumford Police Department’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

For the first time in many years, the ceremony was held at Mountain Valley Middle School in Mexico because of the leaky roof at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, Sgt. Douglas Maifeld said Wednesday.

“It was quite the sight; standing-room only,” Maifeld, the department’s longtime DARE instructor, said. Ninety-five students received certificates for completing the 16-week program.

“There are 301 actual seats at the middle school and somebody said that while there were oddball seats not filled, there were people standing up and sitting in chairs out back. There were well over 300 people there, counting the kids and the speakers,” he said.

Julie Parisien, a three-time Olympian and 1993 world championship slalom silver medalist, was the guest speaker.

“She had an awesome speech where she talked about her three successes, which were mental preparation, physical preparation, and emotional/mental toughness,” Maifeld said.

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Parisien spoke about how she learned she had made the Olympic team.

“And she ended up knocking out seven teeth,” Maifeld said. “And then going down for one of the runs, she ended up breaking her arm, and did that stop her? No, she still ended up skiing the Olympics and came in fourth (place) in one and in fifth on the other. But, you know, she still got to go and didn’t let anything slow her down.”

Maifeld said it was great for him to have Parisien as the DARE graduation speaker.

“I wanted the kids to see that there are other things to do in life than drugs, like being involved in sports and stuff like that,” he said.

“And if you’re involved in sports, you obviously aren’t going to be able to do all those things, and have that mental and physical preparation, and she kind of reinforced that by her speech. And that was my hope. She did an awesome job,” he said.

“Self Esteem” license plate winners were Michaela Beauchesne (BTRU2U) and Elijah Weston (WEHAVFUN) from Meroby; Rylee Sevigny (2COOL4U) and Jessica Bordeau (URAWSM) from Rumford Elementary; and Aaron Labrash (B-AWSME) from Holy Savior.

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“Taking A Stand” DARE essay winners were Alexis Therrien and Isabelle Mowatt from Meroby; Kaitlyn Buck and Gracie Farnum from Rumford Elementary; and Kyleigh Dupuis from Holy Savior.

Before speaking about tobacco, bullying and violence, Therrien wrote that Maifeld “taught me a lot that I will eventually need in life. You need these lessons so you can make the right choices in your journey through life,” she said.

Mowatt said the program taught her how to deal with stress and to stay clear of drugs and alcohol.

“I already knew smoking cigarettes was bad for you before the DARE program,” she said. “There are many members of my family that use tobacco. It makes me sad. However, the DARE program has given me the tools to communicate with them, to maybe change their minds about using tobacco.”

Speaking to the effectiveness of the DARE program, Maifeld said he has no way of knowing how many DARE graduates stay drug free. He did say that sometimes DARE program graduates turn up in police logs.

“But, five or six years ago, I had one of my (DARE) students who was graduating high school and she sent me a message to my Facebook account, you know, thanking me, because she listened to what I had to say and she remained drug and violence free,” Maifeld said.

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“And she just wanted to let me know and wanted to thank me. Not that I expect that, but that’s nice to hear.

“I mean, the old adage: ‘Does DARE work?’ I mean right there, one kid’s saved,” he said. “To me, that’s enough to make DARE work.

“But, obviously, I’m trying to reach a lot more than just one,” he said. “I mean, I hate having to defend DARE, but I think it’s an awesome program. I mean, obviously, I wouldn’t be involved in it for 21 years if I didn’t think so.”

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