This week was a week to celebrate as 16 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 on Wednesday, the fifth grade students listened as their D.A.R.E. instructor, Lt. David Midas of the Carbon County Sheriff's department, as well as the Honorable Steven R. Serfass, judge for the Carbon County Court of Common Pleas; and Jim Thorpe Police Chief Joseph Schatz, 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.

"We're here today to celebrate," Midas said. "The D.A.R.E. program is aimed at educating these students about the dangers in the community such as drugs and bullies and how they affect you and your families. Over the past nine weeks the students gained knowledge about the dangers of drugs and alcohol that are out there."

He explained to other students and parents in attendance that the D.A.R.E. program is a nine-week training course, started in 1983 in Los Angeles, Calif., 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. The D.A.R.E. program began in Jim Thorpe in 1999.

Midas 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. Sponsors of the D.A.R.E. program in Jim Thorpe include the Jim Thorpe Area School District, the Jim Thorpe Police Department, Jim Thorpe Borough, and the Carbon County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Dwight Nothstein.

Midas then introduced Serfass and Schatz.

Serfass spoke about the program and how it affects the students.

"It's a valuable tool to teach students how to say no to drugs," he said, as he recognized the efforts of Midas and the school. "Things you learned here will help you in the future. The lessons you learned have put you on the right path."

He congratulated the class for their hard work in the program and provided some words of wisdom.

"To achieve your dreams, you need to be drug and alcohol free," Serfass said. "Congratulations on a job well done. We're very proud of you. You are positive role models."

Schatz, who is also a D.A.R.E. instructor at L.B. Morris Elementary in Jim Thorpe, then spoke to the students and parents.

He thanked the school for allowing Midas and himself to come and help students learn how to be prepared for temptations that will occur as they grow

He also thanked the community support this program has received over the years to make sure it continues in the Jim Thorpe School District.

Schatz reminded the students that there are consequences if they choose drugs and alcohol.

"Think about what you're going to do before you act on it," he said. "You have the tools. Don't let things out there like drugs affect your life."

Following the speakers, Rhiannon Malarkey, the essay winner of the graduating class, read her D.A.R.E. essay. She received a medal for her prize.

Diplomas were then given out to the graduates. This year's D.A.R.E. graduates are Macayla Almeida, Edward Baus, Kelsey Carroll, Grace Crouthamel, Hunter Fristick, Kevin Kabitzke, Rhiannon Malarkey, Seth Paluck, Justin Patire, Natalia Richards, Madeline Ruff, Caroline Snerr, Katie Spillman, Joseph Stager, Sydney Vincent, and Carter Wolfe.

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

"One thing I notice year after year when I come to teach the D.A.R.E. program, is this is one big family here," he said, as he urged the students to look after each other.

The graduating class was then treated to a pizza party, sponsored by Schatz.