Ninety-nine fifth grade students at L.B. Morris Elementary School in Jim Thorpe pledged to stay drug and violence free during their D.A.R.E. graduation recently.

Students and parents gathered in the gymnasium of the school to celebrate the graduates' accomplishments last Friday. Jim Thorpe Police Chief Joseph Schatz and Lt. David Midas of the Carbon County Sheriff's department, certified D.A.R.E. instructors in the Jim Thorpe Area School District, hosted the program. They both noted that they were honored to be the classes' instructors.

At the beginning of the graduation, David McAndrew, assistant principal, welcomed everyone and congratulated the students on a job well done. He also thanked teachers and staff; financial supporters of the program; and Schatz and Midas for their support of the program.

He then explained that D.A.R.E. is a 10-week intensive training course that teaches children to say no to drugs, as well as teach them what the effects of using drugs are and that there are people that they can talk to if they are put in a situation regarding drugs.

Schatz, who has been teaching the program in the Jim Thorpe Area School District since 1999, then spoke about how teaching this program is rewarding because he gets to know the students and see how they respond to it.

He noted that parents should be proud of their children for their accomplishments.

Schatz also talked about the friendship he has the ability to build with each of the students during the program.

"I always tell the students 'they're their own person,' he said. "Every year the students get better and better."

Schatz then turned the microphone over to Midas.

Midas thanked the school for allowing him to teach the program.

He noted that it is an honor and a privilege to be able to teach the students about how to say no to drugs.

He said the parents should be proud of their children.

Midas asked the students to be safe and aware as they continue their education.

Guest speak District Magistrate Edward Lewis then addressed the graduates.

He spoke about his job and the cases he handles.

He also told a story of his son, who at one time was involved in sports, but found drugs by the age of 16. Various trips to jail and hospitals didn't help the boy. He passed away from a drug overdose at the age of 26.

"Drugs don't care who you are," Lewis said, adding that they are addicting and will ruin your life if you let them.

Following Lewis' speech, Schatz and Det. Lee Marzen presented Lewis with a plaque thanking him for his support of the Jim Thorpe Police Department.

Midas then introduced the four essay winners, Tucker Mertz, Mackenzie Rosenberger, Mikki Bernhard, and Grace Kenna, who read their D.A.R.E. Reports.

The four students, who were named the essay winners of their classes, received their very own Darren the D.A.R.E. Lion as a prize.

Diplomas were then given to the graduating students.

Funding for the 2011 D.A.R.E. program in the Jim Thorpe Area School District was sponsored by Carbon County Treasurer Ronald Sheehan, Kresge Electric, Leztek Systems and District Attorney Gary Dobias.

Schatz said without the community's help, he and Midas would not be able to hold the annual classes.

The students were then treated to a pizza party lunch.