Eighty-eight 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 on Thursday morning.

Students and parents gathered in the gymnasium of the school to celebrate the graduates' accomplishments. 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; the Jim Thorpe Borough Council, who is a financial supporter of the program; the school district directors; county officials; borough businesses; and Schatz and Midas for their support of the program.

He then explained that D.A.R.E. is an eight-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 for 11 years, then spoke about how teaching this program is rewarding because he gets to know the students and see their self esteem grow with each class.

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 eight-week program.

"You are the future and I commend you," he said.

Before turning the microphone over to Midas, Schatz dared the students to remain drug free.

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.

"We do our best to be heroes to these students," he said. "We want to be here every year for these kids."

Midas added that the students who are graduating should be proud of this accomplishment.

Guest speaker Assistant District Attorney James Lavelle then addressed the graduates.

He recognized the hard work both Schatz and Midas do for the community and the schools and commended them for their dedication.

He then told the students a story about a man that lost everything his wife, children, home, job, and friends because he let drugs take over his life.

Lavelle said that he doesn't want to see that happen to the students because drugs are not worth it.

"I want for you what Chief Schatz and Lt. Midas want for you," he said. "I want you to never take these illegal substances. Nothing good will come out of it. Avoid these substances because keeping them out of your body, your blood, your organs and especially your brain will help you think more clearly, work hard and succeed in life."

He closed his speech with a quote from President John F. Kennedy.

Kennedy said during his inauguration, "In your hands, my fellow citizens, more so than mine, will lie the final success or failure of our course."

Lavelle said this statement was true because it is through our own choices that people either help the community, county, and country, succeed or fail.

Jim Thorpe Mayor Michael Sofranko spoke briefly to the students and parents about the power of love and how it can help children flourish as they grow up.

Following the speeches, students Miranda Antiga, Antonio Madera, and Alissa Bailey read their "D.A.R.E. Reports." The three 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.

The 2010 D.A.R.E. program in the Jim Thorpe Area School District was funded by sponsors state Rep. Keith McCall, Mauch Chunk Trust Company, Jim Thorpe National Bank, Carbon County Treasurer Ronald Sheehan, Kresge Electric, Jim Thorpe Market, Jim Thorpe Auto Rentals, and the Borough of Jim Thorpe.

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