Madison Police Department Lt. Dan Slygh hands a D.A.R.E. graduation certificate to sixth-grader Leslie Beverly during a ceremony at Madison Junior High School. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Madison Police Department Lt. Dan Slygh hands a D.A.R.E. graduation certificate to sixth-grader Leslie Beverly during a ceremony at Madison Junior High School. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Madison Junior High School held its 2013 D.A.R.E. graduation Tuesday, the first since Lt. Dan Slygh took over as instructor for the program.

The D.A.R.E. program, which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is taught in sixth-grade classes at Madison, Southwestern and Pope John. Southwestern's graduation will be Thursday and Pope John's graduation will be Friday.

This year there were 218 graduates out of 250 students in the class. Slygh told the students he hoped they were able to get something beneficial from the program.

"This is something that's very important to me and I hope you guys continue to use what your learned over the past 10 weeks," Slygh said.

Chief Dan Thurston, who served as the D.A.R.E. instructor before Slygh, told the graduates that one important decision can help kids stay off drugs.

"If you choose the people you hang out with wisely ... then all the other lessons will take care of themselves," Thurston said.

As a requirement to graduate, students had to write a five paragraph essay about the things they learned during the program and what they liked best about D.A.R.E.

When Slygh started asking what the students liked best about the program, he was surprised by the answers.

"That was really eye-opening for me because they got more than I thought they would (out of the program)," Slygh said.

The D.A.R.E. essay contest winners were Taylor Backus, Gabe Caudill, Jacqueline Fry, Hannah Huff, Emma Lostutter, Jon Motenko, Kennedy Park, Ethan Riley, Kayelee Schneider and Cooper Yancey.

This year featured a new curriculum for the D.A.R.E. program with an emphasis on decision making and encouraging students to know what the consequences of a negative decision could be.

After his first year, Slygh said he has learned a lot during the program.

"I thought the first year was a learning experience, but it went well," Slygh said.

Slygh said he probably wouldn't change anything about the way the first year went.

"For my first year, I really don't have anything to compare it to," he said.

One of the hardest parts of the whole program was trying to remember all the kids' names. Slygh said he had more than 400 kids in three classes he had to keep track of and it took a while to learn their names.