The New Albany Police Department and New Albany Plain Township School District celebrated more than 200 DARE graduates today.
DARE stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education but the program goes beyond drugs to help students make better decisions in a number of situations related to stress and peer pressure. But an often overlooked benefit to DARE programs in our schools today are the opportunities to build relationships between officers and students in the actual student setting. “I love my job and I know this program makes a difference,” said DARE officer Leland Kelly, who spends the school year on the New Albany Plain Local Schools campus and is a New Albany police officer on patrol throughout the community when school is not in session. “This program helps kids make better decisions, and shows the kids at an early age that officers can be trusted and are looking out for the child’s best interests.”
As part of the graduation ceremony, two students read essays they wrote about the DARE program and what they gained from it. Officer Kelly received a pleasant surprise when he was recognized by a local parent, school leaders and elected officials from around central Ohio (including State Senator Kevin Bacon and State Representative Anne Gonzales) for his efforts to make a difference in the lives of the students going through the program. “The recognition was a total surprise, and much appreciated, but we do what we do to put kids in situations where they can make good decisions,” added Kelly. “I’ve developed a bond with these kids, and they know I care about them and want the best for them. These past four years as a DARE officer have been the best of my career.”