More than 300 people attended the Tamaqua Area D.A.R.E., Drug Abuse Resistance Education, graduation held Thursday evening at the Tamaqua Auditorium in support of the students' 10-week program completion. The 10-week DARE curriculum is taught to all fifth grade students in the Tamaqua Area School District and St. Jerome's Regional School. Ninety students graduated from the program.

The Tamaqua Area DARE program includes the annual DARE Challenge and graduation for fifth grade students; additional instruction at the seventh grade level; school wide assemblies for Tamaqua Area, Marian High School and St. Jerome's Regional School students; and a scholarship program.

During the graduation program, top essay winners were given the opportunity to read their essays. The top DARE essay winners were fifth grade students Nicole Wasserleben from Mrs Setser's Tamaqua class, Dakota Boyer from Mrs. Derr's Tamaqua class, Kelsey Zeigler from Mrs Feliciano's Tamaqua class, Jacob Weiksner from Miss Fulmer's West Penn class, Olivia Matula from Mrs. Robert's St Jerome's class, Abigail Brickler from Mrs. Bittner's West Penn class, Spencer DePue from Mr Gombar's West Penn class, and Jade Pradel from Mrs Evanousky's Rush class.

Specially trained DARE Police Officers and coaches that take a big part in the program are Tamaqua Police Department Officers Corporal Dwayne Hacker, Michael Hobbes, Rush Police Department Officer Duane Frederick, and West Penn Police Department Officer Jason Lorah.

The 2009-2010 DARE Steering Committee consisting of volunteers, parents, teachers, and Police Officers from Tamaqua, Hometown, and West Penn organized the event. A magic and educational presentation was also given by motivational and youth speaker Tim Piccirillo.

State budget cuts last school year, 2008-2009, meant the DARE Steering Committee had to become their own cheerleaders and financial backers. Such is the case again this year, when the committee must depend on the generosity of the public in order to continue trying to positively impact the younger generation. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering with the DARE program is encouraged to call 570-668-5000 or 570-691-1091.

The D.A.R.E. Program has connected with both the Tamaqua Area School District and St Jerome Regional School since 1990. In 1992, the Tamaqua Area D.A.R.E. Steering Committee was formed to assist the Police officers with DARE related activities. Since that time, the DARE program has expanded to include supplemental DARE instruction at the 7th grade level.

Special thanks was extended to the Borough of Tamaqua, West Penn and Rush Townships for providing the DARE officers, Board of Education, and all the administrators and teachers of the schools. In addition, a final appreciation was given to student volunteers, Wes Konsavage, Ray Ohart, and Air Products(who donates hundreds of balloons every year for the graduation).

DARE Committee member Lisa Shilko, a long-time volunteer, previously said, "The DARE program teaches students so many important things. The best result of this program is the connection and bond the students develop with police officers. The constant close interaction and motivation promotes trust and comfort towards the officers. This will make it easier as the students grow older. The increase in parental involvement has been a great asset to the program."