Boonton Township Fifth Graders Say No to Drugs
11-year-old fifth grader John Pietranera, from Boonton Township, reads from his essay about staying away from drugs and making the right decisions. (Click to enlarge).
BOONTON TWP. – Fifth graders at the Rockaway Valley Elementary School spent a portion of Valentine’s Day assembled in the gymnasium to participate in the fifth annual D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) graduation ceremony.
About 50 fifth graders, all wearing D.A.R.E. T-shirts, were recognized for their efforts and their pledge to stay away from substance abuse.
Also in attendance was the entire fourth grade class, who next year shall follow in the footsteps of their older classmates. Furthermore, about 100 parents of the fifth graders had come, rooting their kids on.
D.A.R.E. is a national drug prevention program, which was created in Los Angeles during the 1980s. D.A.R.E. first began in Boonton Township in 1991. This year’s graduation marks the 25th anniversary of the D.A.R.E. program in Boonton Township.
The D.A.R.E. program at Rockaway Valley is directed by health/PE teacher Amy Fudala and Patrolman Tom Cacciabeve. Cacciabeve’s father, Tom Cacciabeve Sr., had first served as the first D.A.R.E. officer of Boonton Township. Veteran D.A.R.E. instructor Joseph D’Agostino teaches the seventh grade program at Rockaway Valley.
“This is a great accomplishment for all the students,” said Sgt. Cacciabeve, who has been with the D.A.R.E. program since 2011.
“They should all be proud. They made a commitment to stay drug-free, and that is a significant achievement for them, their families, and their whole community.”
Fudala seconded that motion.
“D.A.R.E. teaches more than not doing drugs, but teaches kids how to make important decisions in life,” said Fudala, who has been directing the school’s D.A.R.E. program for 11 years.
“Rockaway Valley School is very fortunate to have this program in their classrooms. Congrats on out fifth graders for their essays.”
This year, fifth graders were instructed to write an essay about how D.A.R.E. has impacted them and why kids should stay away from drugs. The top three essays were chosen to be read at the graduation ceremony.
The three fifth graders were John Pietranera, 11, Sammi Johnson, 10 and and Giacomo Bevacqua, 11.
All three students were nervous to read their essays in front of the entire fifth grade and their parents, but excited to talk about what impact D.A.R.E. has made on them.
“D.A.R.E. helped me learn how bad drugs are for you,” said Bevacqua.
“We’ve all come a long way so we better not mess it up.”
Johnson too encouraged her classmates to continue their pledge against drugs and pass it on to others following them.
“D.A.R.E. helped me think about what is good and about the future,” said Johnson.
“When we get older, we will probably use this D.A.R.E. model to stay away from drugs, but also to help others in the same way.”
After speeches, all fifth graders received certificates of their D.A.R.E. graduation. Moms and dads cheered them on, teachers gave congrats, and the students themselves felt accomplished.
“Do your body a favor and stay away from drugs,” said Pietranera.
This article by Anthony Lusardi was originally published on The Citizen.