Initial year of D.A.R.E. program in the Eastern Allamakee Community School District sets the foundation for community support system

D.A.R.E. to wear ... Lansing/New Albin Police Chief Conrad Rosendahl displays one of the t-shirts that were given to fifth and sixth grade students in the Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) who participated in the inaugural year of the local Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program this past school year. Pictured in the photo background is EACSD fifth grade teacher Lisa Welsh, who was instrumental in facilitating the program for her students. Submitted photo.

Learning more than just resisting drugs ... Lansing Police Chief Conrad Rosendahl stands near the video screen during one of his D.A.R.E. program presentations that he used with Eastern Allamakee Community School District fifth and sixth grade students this past school year. Initially started as a program designed specifically for drug abuse resistance, the D.A.R.E. program has been revamped in the past decade to also include such matters as bullying and healthy lifestyle choices, along with coping and communication skills, risk assessment and other mental and emotional topics. Submitted photo.

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

Eastern Allamakee Community School District fifth and sixth grade students worked with Lansing Police Chief Conrad Rosendahl this past school year to complete training in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program.  The goal of the D.A.R.E. program is to teach students how to resist peer pressure and make healthy life choices. They will continue with the program as they progress from the initial year of its training this past school year on through to seventh grade.

Chief Rosendahl, a law enforcement officer with 16 years of experience in the Lansing/New Albin area, understands the importance of investing in the future of those communities. Recognizing that education is key, Chief Rosendahl believes that by educating children at an early age about the risks and consequences of substance abuse, the community can reduce the prevalence of drug-related issues in the future.

“Keeping kids from even getting involved with drugs and alcohol seemed to be a good place to start. I believe investing in our youth directly affects the future of our community. So, it only seemed right to bring this program to our community,” he stated.

The D.A.R.E. program was created by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1983. The program was popular in schools for several years, but scientific, long-term studies showed that it was not effective, primarily because the methodology used to teach the students did not involve them but, instead, concentrated on long lectures. Along with the differences in origins, oversight, and organizational make-up, the curriculum and content of the new D.A.R.E. program is markedly different than the old D.A.R.E. program. The newer version of the program, which began a decade ago, stresses more involvement by including students and goes beyond the “just say no” adage of the past.

The program is now taught in several countries and reaches over 10,000 communities in all 50 of the United States. All materials are science/evidence-based, age appropriate, and written by a national panel of curriculum and prevention experts. The program now uses evidence-based curricular which is designed to meet core educational standards while addressing issues such as bullying and healthy lifestyle choices, and improving decision-making and communication skills through peer interaction and role-playing scenarios. The program also addresses coping skills, assessing risk, support networks, and emotional and mental health topics.

The process of implementing the D.A.R.E. program involved several steps. After receiving support from both the Lansing City Council and the Eastern Allamakee Community School District Board of Directors, Chief Rosendahl attended the rigorous 80-hour D.A.R.E. officer training in Johnston with several other officers from the Midwest. During this training, the officers participated in the activities which they would later use in the classroom.

Fifth grade teacher Lisa Welsh emphasizes that the D.A.R.E program goes beyond the traditional focus on drug education. “It is more about how to make healthy and safe decisions,” she explains.

The curriculum provides students with essential skills to handle bullying, manage stressful situations, and communicate effectively. Welsh believes that D.A.R.E has equipped students with strategies to say no in various challenging situations, not just related to drugs and alcohol.

Students have reacted positively to the training. Berkley Wilwert, a participant in the program, shared, “I learned the five W’s when reporting someone for bullying. It helps the teachers have a better idea about what happens when you use this.”

The program has empowered students like Ashlyn Stein, who said, “I learned different strategies to use when you want to say no to someone.”

Brynn Connelly added, “I learned what different drugs, like tobacco, can do to your body.”

These testimonials highlight the valuable skills students have acquired through the program.

The D.A.R.E. curriculum focuses on the entire K-12 system, but for now, Chief Rosendahl is concentrating on the middle school. As the students progress through the upper-level grades, Rosendahl feels that the knowledge and skills acquired through the program will strengthen their ability to make informed decision and resist negative influences.

The introduction of the D.A.R.E. program in the Lansing/New Albin area will foster broad efforts to create a supportive environment for all residents. By focusing on education, prevention and fostering positive relationships between law enforcement and youth, Chief Rosendahl hopes to see a generation that is better equipped to navigate the challenges they may face, armed with the knowledge and skills to make informed, responsible choices.

Chief Rosendahl has a strong commitment to family and community. He and his wife have children ranging in age from four to 24, so he personally knows the kinds of situations that kids face at many stages in their lives. His involvement in public service goes beyond serving as police chief as he also serves as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) for the Lansing Emergency Medical Service, is a volunteer fire fighter and leads the youth ministry at the United Methodist Church.

Rosendahl stated, “Community oriented policing is very important to me as police chief. There is so much more to policing than traffic stops and arresting people. D.A.R.E. is one more area that brings value to community-oriented policing and allows us another way to interact with the youth in our community.”