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New D.A.R.E. Program Debuts With “Anti-Drug Bug”

D.A.R.E. vehicle donated by Hillcrest Volkswagen

Burrell School District students are among the first in the nation to learn about drug resistance with a new D.A.R.E. program. What’s more, what they learn in the classroom will be reinforced in the community, thanks to a brand-new D.A.R.E. vehicle donated to the Lower Burrell Police Department by Hillcrest Volkswagen.

Because the police department’s previous D.A.R.E. vehicle, a confiscated Cadillac Escalade, is out of commission and there’s no funding for a new vehicle, D.A.R.E. officer John Marhefka solicited several dealerships for a car. Hillcrest Volkswagen was eager to meet his request, and for that, Officer Marhefka is grateful. “It’s nice to have a car at my disposal to go to D.A.R.E. classes and other school programs,” he says.

“This is our community, and after what the city and the police department have been through, we wanted to help them out,” says Bob Bordonaro, owner of the Lower Burrell dealership. Mr. Bordonaro is covering a three-year lease of the 2012 Beetle, and had it detailed with the words “Anti-Drug Bug” and the D.A.R.E. logo. “Hopefully it brings awareness to the kids,” Mr. Bordonaro says.

Students already are taking notice of the new vehicle. “The kids love the new D.A.R.E. car and the fact that it’s called the Anti-Drug Bug,” says fifth grade teacher Brooke Miller. “VW Bugs are cool to kids anyway, and now when they see it in the parking lot, they get excited because they know Officer Marhefka is here.”
The new D.A.R.E. curriculum, taught in fifth and sixth grade, is called keepin’ it REAL. It teaches youth to think critically and communicate effectively. The lessons cover risk assessment, decision-making, support resources, and communication skills such as conflict resolution and drug refusal. REAL stands for the resistance strategies – Refuse, Explain, Avoid, and Leave – that kids can use when offered drugs.

“This program is supposed to be in place nationally by next year, but it is such a great program that I wanted to get started with it right away,” says Officer Marhefka, who has been active in D.A.R.E. at Burrell for 14 years. He was named Pennsylvania D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year in 2009.

“Even though students in fifth grade are young, they are still being exposed to drugs and alcohol through television shows, the news, and even out in the community,” Ms. Miller says. “D.A.R.E. teaches students how to say ‘no’ and get out of the situation.” D.A.R.E.’s practical lessons on how to avoid drugs and deal with peer pressure are a nice complement to the lessons on the effects of drugs being taught in health classes, says Huston Middle School teacher Alexis Endlich.

In addition to D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), the LBPD also presents the Charlie Checkfirst and Child I.D. programs at the elementary school level, and a Student Police Academy for high school students at Burrell.

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