Tuesday was a day to celebrate as 15 students from St. Joseph's Regional Academy in Jim Thorpe pledged to remain drug and violence free.

During the annual D.A.R.E. graduation, the students of Alex Tucker's fifth grade class listened as their D.A.R.E. instructor, Lt. David Midas of the Carbon County Sheriff's department, as well as Carbon County Judge Steven R. Serfass and Lansford Chief of Police John Turcmanovich, congratulated them on a job well done.

Midas said that he was honored and blessed for being allowed to teach the students at St. Joseph's.

"I'm very proud to be here today," Midas said. "The D.A.R.E. program has been a success at St. Joseph's and I'm proud of these students."

He explained to other students and parents in attendance that the D.A.R.E. program is a nine-week training course that teaches students about the effects drugs and alcohol have on a person, as well as how to say no if someone tries to pressure them into trying drugs.

He added that over the last few years, funding has become an issue, but donations from area organizations have helped keep the program at St. Joseph's alive.

Midas then introduced Serfass and Turcmanovich, this year's special guest speakers.

Serfass congratulated the class for completing the course.

"D.A.R.E. is about making the right choices," he said, adding that as the county's third judge, he has witnessed, first-hand, the harmful effects that drugs and alcohol have on a person.

He also urged parents, teachers, and community leaders to help the children by providing them with information necessary to make the right choice in difficult situations.

Turcmanovich, who was a D.A.R.E. instructor in the Panther Valley School District since 1991, then addressed the class.

He noted that he was Midas' D.A.R.E. instructor years ago, and said that he was proud of the dedication Midas showed for the program.

He then talked about the special bond that was formed during the class between Midas and each student.

"If you have a problem, a question, or if you're in trouble and need to talk to someone you can trust, remember that man (Dave Midas)," Turcmanovich said. "He will never fail you. He will work with you and help you. You have a friend for life."

Following the speakers, Eric Fischer, the essay winner of the graduating class, read his D.A.R.E. essay. He received a Darren the D.A.R.E. Lion, the mascot of the program, as a prize.

Midas also held a D.A.R.E. poster contest, in which the 15 students got to participate. They each made a poster to represent what they learned through the program. The winner of the contest was Molly Behan. She won a D.A.R.E. pillow.

Diplomas were then given out to the graduates. Each of them thanked their teacher, Midas and Jim Thorpe Chief of Police Joseph Schatz, who was also a D.A.R.E. instructor in the Jim Thorpe Area School District. The graduates are, Molly Behan, Sean Choley, Michael Dubravski, Eric Fischer, Matthew Green, Evan Hartmann, Kaitlin MacDonald, Ryan McArdle, Jacob Paluck, Jillian Peterson, Camille Principe, Daniel Simmons, Jeffrey Thomas, Spencer Wahlmark, and Mary Williams.

Midas then concluded the graduation program by thanking everyone for attending the event and supporting the D.A.R.E. program.

"It's been an honor and a blessing to serve the students," he said.

The graduating class was then treated to a pizza party.