Skaha Lake Middle School Grade 6 student Kai Godfrey presented his D.A.R.E. essay to parents, teachers and his entire grade Wednesday morning at the D.A.R.E. graduation.

Approximately 170 Skaha Lake Middle School students graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program Wednesday armed with strategies to ensure they make good choices in the future.

 “They’re hungry for knowledge,” Penticton RCMP Const. Kate Hansen, who ran the 10-week D.A.R.E. program.

“They want to be the kind kid, the good kid, they just need someone to show them the steps of what to do when they get into problems, how to resolve them.”

“We’re really seeing at the middle school-level now things like bullying, and stress and peer pressure,” she continued. “Kids have a lot of questions, they’re starting to see (bad) influences.”

Hansen said some of the questions revolved around the opioid crisis in the age of legalized marijuana.

“They’ve heard about the opioid crisis in Penticton,” she said. “We think it’s really important (to have) open discussion so they understand … how to make safe and responsible choices moving forward and how to get help when they need it.”

It’s important to teach children awareness around drug abuse and saying no, she added, because children can be criminally charged at age 12.

“Before, if they stole a chocolate bar at age five they may just get a talking to,” she said. “We want to make them aware of the consequences of their actions.”

Five students were given the opportunity to read their essays on the lessons they learned from D.A.R.E.

One of those students was Kai Godfrey, who said he’s taken all of his learning back to his family and friends.

“We learned how to communicate in tough situations, and what not to do,” he said.

He believes D.A.R.E. to be important because it “gives kids a sense of awareness.”