Fifth-grader McKayla Collins of Rumford Elementary School reads her essay, titled “Taking a Stand,” at the DARE graduation Tuesday in Muskie Auditorium at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

 

Fifth-graders try to catch one of the DARE Frisbees tossed their way during Tuesday’s DARE graduation at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)

RUMFORD — The Rumford Police Department celebrated its 30th year of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program Tuesday by handing out 101 diplomas to fifth-graders from Rumford and Mexico schools.

The graduates also heard U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, tell of his elementary school days and how he handled being bullied.

The 16-week program teaches the dangers of drugs and violence and is led by Sgt. Doug Maifeld, who is celebrating his 25th year as the DARE officer.

“I have been reflecting a lot lately as I think of all the kids I have taught,” he said.

Maifeld estimated there are about 3,850 DARE graduates in the River Valley area.

A student from each of the six fifth-grade classes at Meroby Elementary in Mexico and Rumford Elementary and Holy Savior in Rumford was selected to read his or her “Taking a Stand” essay.

McKayla Collins of Rumford Elementary expressed her appreciation for the program, saying, “DARE prepared you for life by teaching you important life lessons that you can use later on.”

The more people who do DARE, the less people will smoke or do drugs and be violent, she said.

“Then, the world will gradually become a better place,” she added.

Kelley Hogancamp of Meroby said she learned one of the ways to relieve stress is reading.

“I really like to read,” she said, “so that is a really good stress strategy for me.”

Her classmate Skye Wind said she has learned to avoid violence and confide in a trusted adult or parents.

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary, the evil it does is permanent,” she said.

Alyvia Theriault, also of Meroby, offered her appreciation for her instructor.

“I would like to give a big thanks to Officer Maifeld for teaching us all of the important things to be successful in life,” Theriault said. “When I am older, I pledge to never be a bystander and to never let drugs get into my body.”

Chase Duguay of Holy Savior said decision-making is an important part of the DARE program.

“It teaches us about our choice and about problems and opportunity,” he said. “This also relates to responsibility. Responsibility is to be reliable and trustworthy.”

Shawna Wright of Rumford Elementary said, “To me, substance abuse is something to hide your emotions so that you don’t have to deal with the pain, which isn’t healthy for you or for anyone else.”

The winners from each fifth-grade class were Raeleigh Virgin, Abigayle Marston and Madison Collins, all of Meroby; Kaylani Sinclair and Madisyn McLean, both of Rumford Elementary; and Henry Leduc of Holy Savior.

Poliquin told graduates he played on a Little League baseball team at the age of 10 with his older brother, Jim.

“I sat on the bench most of the time, but one day my dad put me in a game, at second base,” Poliquin said. “And in one inning, I had three balls go right through the wickets. Three errors in one inning. I remember I felt horrible, was embarrassed, felt I let my teammates and my brother down.

“Folks started to pick on me a little bit. I was always very small and I wore glasses. I was having a hard time focusing on my school work. I really felt horrible. I lost some confidence.

“That’s what happens when people pick on one another. That is what happens when people bully one another.”

Poliquin told students that a great thing about DARE is that “you kids are making your school, your state, this world a better place.”

“Your job is to make this a better world,” he said. “A better place, a kinder place, a gentler place. A place where kids can play Little League baseball and not get bullied or made fun of if they make mistakes.”

Poliquin went back to the lesson he learned as a kid.

“When you make mistakes, you’ve got to come back stronger,” he said. “That’s how you learn. You don’t learn when things go well. You learn when things don’t go well.

“But that’s when you need to support your friends and not bully them. Because when kids have fun, and adults have fun with what they’re doing, and they have confidence that they’re not going to get picked on, and they’re supported by their friends, you do better. You perform better.”

After his address, Poliquin surprised Maifeld with an American flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

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