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Oceanport: The Maple Place Middle School in Oceanport celebrated its tenth D.A.R.E Graduation on February 23rd. D.A.R.E is a program that focuses on Drug Abuse Resistance Education. It also challenges students to remain drug and violence free. The course is designed to have one hour a week taken out of the regular school schedule to focus on multiple drugs, violence, forms of peer pressure, and other pertinent topics that could potentially harm a person or others around them. This year’s class lasted 18 weeks. The course is completed inside the school, but also allows for outside experiences. One trip this year’s class took was to the DEA and to a Trauma Center.
Sergeant Steve Tagerty from the Oceanport Police Department has been the instructor of D.A.R.E since 1999 when the program was first introduced to the school district. Not only is Sergeant Tagerty a police officer, and instructor, he is the New Jersey D.A.R.E Officer of the year! To celebrate his accomplishment many fellow officers from Oceanport, Little Silver, Shrewsbury, Ocean Township and the State came to show their support and appreciation.
When the ceremony started, Sergeant Tagerty said 1,2,3 … and the entire graduating body made up of seventy-five fifth graders clapped. Immediately following the clap, the students sat in a synchronized fashion. The parents in the audience gasped at amazement, and that is when Sgt. Tagerty jokingly said he could get them to clean their rooms and make their beds every day.
As the ceremony started, Mr. Andrew Orefice, Superintendent of the Oceanport School District stood up and addressed the audience. Mr. Orefice recommended the students to, “embrace the lessons and messages learned throughout this program and share them.” He also added, “Take great courage to be a leader.” Following Orefice’s address was Mr. Radisch, the school Principal. He reflected about the D.A.R.E program stating, “This is the epitome of goodness, dedication, and what it is to be a good role model.”
One part of the D.A.R.E program consists of an essay contest. The students are to look back at their entire experience, explain it and talk about what they learned and how they will use the information in the future. Each of the fifth grade classes had a winner. As each winner was named, they reported to the stage and read their essay aloud for all in attendance to hear.
One D.A.R.E. graduate read, “I was born to be somebody, and D.A.R.E helped me find out who I was meant to be.” Another essay contest winner shared, “I am committing to staying drug and violence free. I will say NO to drugs.”
Not only was there an essay contest, there was also a poster contest. There were six winning posters selected and put on display on a bulletin board in the cafeteria. Each class had two winners. To finish off the back wall was the D.A.R.E banner that was signed by students who decided to pledge to remain drug and violence free. After this banner was presented to the school it was said that for the ten years this program has been in existence, all participating students signed their name on the banner.
The ceremony concluded with each student having their name called and walking across the stage, shaking hands and ultimately receiving their diploma. After each student received their diploma and the audience applauded them, Sergeant Tagerty took the mic and ended the ceremony with this simple yet powerful statement, “You made the pledge, stand up to it!”