DARE: 20 years strong

A handful of DARE graduates show off their medals and artwork: (front row, from left) Megan Ball, Delaney Cutteridge, Taylor Mocniak, Sean Atchison; (back row) Trevor Stage, Kendra Berschet, Courtney Martin and David Harris.
St. Patrick School fifth-grader Broderick Besinger receives his DARE diploma and congratulations from teacher Kara Schroyer.
Lt. Teena Gallagher speaks to the students and parents attending the 100th DARE graduation in Madison County.

Lt. Teena Gallagher of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office has a purpose in life. On Dec. 16, that purpose reached a milestone when 21 fifth-graders graduated from the DARE program, marking the 20th year that children in Madison County have been learning how to avoid the pitfalls of drug and alcohol abuse.

In those 20 years, Gallagher has seen 100 graduations and taught over 42,000 students, if you count students who have been in the program multiple times.

“I feel like God put me here for a purpose—to help the young people,” Gallagher said.

The children graduating from the DARE program were fifth-graders at St. Patrick School, and on that night, parents, teachers, community leaders and police officers arrived at the school gymnasium to eat a spaghetti dinner and watch as students received their awards. A large DARE banner was hung at the front of the room, and the walls were covered with student-made posters bearing phrases like “Be smart, don’t start” and “Smoke, choke, croak.”

Individual awards were given first. Delaney Cutteridge won the Top Gun award, as well as the Individual Spirit Award for earning the most points in class. As she walked forward to read her personal commitment to stay drug-free, she discreetly low-fived the hand of a friend sitting in the audience.

The Red team, comprised of Caitlin Cavallaro, Carson Clawson, Mitchell Davis, Taylor Mocniak, Anthony Perez and Jessica Zimmer-Fulton, had the most points as a group, and as such won the Team Spirit Award.

After the individual and team awards, the students received their diplomas and shook hands with community leaders, including county commissioners David Dhume, Bob Hackett and Chris Snyder, and County Prosecutor Steve Pronai and Gallagher.

When asked about their favorite part of the DARE program, several children and their teacher, Kara Schroyer, had the same answer.

“My favorite part, like the children, is getting to wear the ‘drunk goggles,’” said Schroyer.

“Everything looked sideways and curvy,” said David Harris, describing the effect of wearing the goggles, which simulate intoxication. James Zawodny also liked the goggles, though he admitted that his performance during the mock sobriety test was “not so good” with them on.

“You wobbled all over the place,” added Morgan Ball, whose favorite part of the program was a trivia game called DARE Baseball. Caitlin Cavallaro said that what she liked most were “all the stories Lt. Gallagher told us.”

Whatever their favorite part of the program was, no one denied that the children were all fans of Gallagher.

“These kids absolutely love her,” said Kathy Zimmer, one of the parents attending the graduation. “They talk non-stop about her.”

Surrounded by children, it was easy to see that, for Gallagher, the feeling was mutual.
“I’m here because I care,” she said.

Messenger photos by Joe Wyse
A handful of DARE graduates show off their medals and artwork: (front row, from left) Megan Ball, Delaney Cutteridge, Taylor Mocniak, Sean Atchison; (back row) Trevor Stage, Kendra Berschet, Courtney Martin and David Harris.

Lt. Teena Gallagher speaks to the students and parents attending the 100th DARE graduation in Madison County.

St. Patrick School fifth-grader Broderick Besinger receives his DARE diploma and congratulations from teacher Kara Schroyer.

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