Editor's Note: The story below contains information submitted by the Peekskill City School District.
PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – Peekskill Students are learning the dangers of drug use at a young age with the help of the city's Police Department.
Peekskill Officer Leo Dylewski has been teaching Drug Abuse Resistance Education (better known as D.A.R.E.) to fifth graders in the Peekskill City School District for nine years. In 2008, he began teaching Gang Resistance Education and Training (or G.R.E.A.T.) to district sixth graders as well. More than 200 district students will graduate from these programs this year.
The privately funded D.A.R.E. and G.R.E.A.T. programs are designed to educate students about the dangers that come with drug and gang involvement. They encourage students to make safe decisions while fostering meaningful relationships with adults trained to guide them down a successful path.
In addition, they help break down barriers between the schools, students and the police, Dylewski said. “A bond and a trust form between all of those involved," he said. "It’s all about having a positive relationship develop with these kids and having positive interactions with them. Many of them have grown up with negative outlooks on police officers, but we have been able to change their opinions about that.”
New topics have been added to the courses’ curriculums in recent years to include such issues as bullying, building self-esteem and self-control and anger management.
“The old programs were a lot of lecturing,” Dylewski said. “The new programs involve much more critical thinking on behalf of the students. It also covers new class topics by proposing problems and offering solutions.”
In his classes, Dylewski takes a realistic approach to problem-solving and often has students form into groups so they can act out real-life scenarios they might face one day.
“It’s good for the students to see the police officers in the school and for them to be able to build a relationship with them so that the children know they can go to the officers if they need to,” said Christine Thompson, who teaches at Hillcrest Elementary.
All students who successfully complete D.A.R.E. and G.R.E.A.T. courses will receive certificates and T-shirts at a graduation ceremony in June.