By Colin Foster
TROY — Having children of their own, first-year D.A.R.E. officers Jeff Waite and Nick Freisthler were very qualified for their positions.
“My kids are all at about that age, so I figured I had pretty good job experience,” said Waite, the Troy Junior High D.A.R.E. officer who has three children in the Miami East school system.
“You know how kids act and react. Every kid is different and every school is different … just having that background being able to approach kids (was good experience),” said Freisthler, the Troy Elementary Schools officer who has four children ages 12, nine, four and nine months. “When I was a young patrol officer, the biggest thing that scared me was having to deal with kids — but now it’s what I want to do.”
D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, has been part of the Troy Police Department since 1991. The program is a non-profit organization. In addition to teaching the D.A.R.E. curriculum, the officers provide input into school security issues, investigate criminal complaints involving the student body, and are involved in many school activities including Interact Club and Career Days. Troy City Schools has three D.A.R.E. officers on staff, including Brandon Fellers who serves at Troy High School.
“My kids are in Troy schools, just seeing what the D.A.R.E. program can do … when I had the opportunity to be apart of it, I definitely took the chance. It’s been rewarding for sure,” said Freisthler, who served with the Eaton Police prior to coming to Troy.
“I see it as a promotion, but it’s basically just a transfer to a different department,” Waite said. “I had spent 15 years in the patrol (in Troy), and it looked like a good opportunity to try something different. I enjoy working with the kids. I recently took up a soccer team for Trojan Soccer Club, and I really enjoyed that interaction. I coach my middle son on the team, so I thought when this position came open a great opportunity to work with the kids of the Troy School District, and try to make a difference in that way.”
According to the official website for the city of Troy (www.troyohio.gov), the D.A.R.E. program elementary curriculum is presented to fifth graders once a week for nine weeks. Students are required to complete all homework and complete a written essay at the end of the course in order to graduate from the program. Some of the topics covered include understanding the effects of mind-altering drugs, considering consequences, the eight ways to say no, how to build self esteem, ways to manage stress, reducing violence and getting involved in positive activities. A graduation ceremony is held at the end of the course where students are given their certificates and D.A.R.E. t-shirts.
The junior high curriculum is presented to seventh graders for 10 consecutive days each trimester. At that level, D.A.R.E instructors reinforce the lessons that were passed along to students while in fifth grade. Students must complete all homework assignments and receive a pass or fail grade for the class.
Waite said the three D.A.R.E. officers on staff typically arrive at the schools between 7-7:30 a.m. and stay all day. They are also in charge of organizing and instructing the summer program, “Safe-T-Town” and are involved with other programs such as the Third Grade Safety Belt Program, preschool presentations and speaking engagements for local organizations.
The D.A.R.E. program used to be in a lot of Miami County schools, but the program has been dropped by most schools in the area. Freisthler said he appreciates the support from the Troy Police Department, the Mayor and city officials to keep the program running in the Troy school system.
“D.A.R.E. is one of those programs where if you don’t have people standing behind it supporting it, it’s not a good program,” Freisthler said. “We’re fortunate to have it still. D.A.R.E. has kept up and made it more modern, because there for a while it wasn’t, and I think that’s when people started to get rid of it …
“There are parts that people see as cheesy, but fifth graders like that. It’s amazing some of the things that I think would be really dorky, but then I try it — and kids love it.”
Colin Foster may be reached at 937-440-5208 or followed on Twitter @colinfosterbg or @Troydailynews