MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
“I pledge to be drug free” was proudly exclaimed by Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms elementary school students as they raised their right hands and took a vow to live healthy, drug-free lives.
Smiles, hugs, and high-fives were exchanged as the nine and 10-year-old graduates walked across the stages Tuesday to receive their certificates of completion from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
Meghan Estrada and Vince Westover, D.A.R.E. officers, Combat Center Provost Marshal’s Office, have spent the past nine weeks teaching the program to local elementary school students.
“We teach the students about peer pressure, decision making, bullying and the effects of drug and alcohol abuse,” said Estrada. “There are approximately 400 students across six schools graduating for the first half of the year.”
The Combat Center is also dedicated to being a positive influence to local children by helping fund the D.A.R.E. program, according to Westover.
“The installation commander sees the importance of the D.A.R.E. program and finds ways to continue funding it because of its positive influence on the community,” said Staff Sgt. Apollo Fisk, Physical Security Chief, PMO.
Combat Center PMO also supports the D.A.R.E. program by participating in Red Ribbon Week or hosting events such as school visits and school fairs for child safety, Trunk or Treats, and booth presentations in addition to the weekly classes they provide.
“The program officers and PMO provide 45-minute classes once a week during the school day for nine weeks,” said Estrada. “We build a relationship by showing the students that we care through spending that time with them, and teaching them the fundamentals of the curriculum.”
The D.A.R.E. officers will often time stay for multiple classes and through lunch to be there for the kids. They have shown a commitment to the development of their students, according to Fisk.
The program has encountered many obstacles over the years, but the Combat Center and the base Provost Marshal’s Office are committed to doing their the best to keep it going.
“We are the only law-enforcement agency that still does the D.A.R.E. program for all 5th grade students in the Morongo Basin district,” said Fisk. “The D.A.R.E. program is great and we’re going to keep it active in the community.”