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by Mark Cheffey
The soon-to-be-revived Palmyra D.A.R.E. program has taken delivery on a new tool for helping students face life’s challenges.
The Palmyra Police Department now has a D.A.R.E. car for use by the school resource officer, Corporal Patrick Anderson, who is also taking on D.A.R.E instructor duties.
The car, a pre-owned white Ford Explorer, fits right in with the Palmyra Police Fleet as well as the school district with its orange and black Panther decals.
“It’s good to have to show the public what we’re doing at the school,” Anderson said. “Having it and using it this year for school, I think is a really big step for this program.
“And having the kids having a hand in the design just makes it that much better.”
So far, the reviews have been five-star from the students.
“The kids love it, especially the younger ones,” Anderson said. “I’ve gotten lots of great feedback even from some of the older kids as well.
“Faculty members have said it’s great seeing it out in front of the schools.
“Sign Pro did a killer job on the stickers. It’s for the school district. It’s all Palmyra.”
Anderson gives credit to the Palmyra community for making the car possible.
“The donations and the out-pouring of support has really been overwhelming,” Anderson said. “To be able to raise enough money to buy this outright and not have to use any funds from the city was a big asset.”
“The support for the car from the community was more than amazing,” said Chief Eddie Bogue. “We set a goal to raise $10,000 for a used patrol car that was bid on from Webb City, and we were able to meet and exceed our goal.”
Bogue cited the example of Steve Mast and Todd Cale, of Mast Automotive in Palmyra who helped pushed the fund raiser over its goal with a last minute fund raiser before the fair.
“Getting the D.A.R.E. car allows Patrick to become more attached to the kids and also frees up a patrol vehicle for us to use for regular duties as we have reduced our fleet of patrol vehicles over the last two years for other needs,” Bogue said.
After an absence of several years, the D.A.R.E program is back and about ready to get starting after the first of the year.
“Since we implemented the student resource officer program, which mostly catered to the older kids I felt the younger kids were being somewhat neglected,” Bogue said. “We had D.A.R.E. for several years but it is a program that takes the right personnel to have a successful program.
“After Patrick was able to become confident in his role as an SRO I felt now was the time to re-implement the DARE program for the younger kids in the school district.”
And the program should be ready to go in February.
“It’s been this semester getting everything prepared,” Anderson said. “Hopefully this year we can have a graduation, depending on how COVID plays out this year.”
Anderson said D.A.R.E. has not changed very much over the years including when he participated in the program.
“It’s a lot like I had it in fifth grade. It’s all driven home on good decision making,” Anderson said, noting it also about drug and alcohol awareness.
“But the vast majority is on decision making not only at school but out in everyday life,” he said. “It hammers home that decisions are going to have consequences, and the consequences, especially the wrong ones, could follow you.”
D.A.R.E has had its detractors over the years who question the program’s effectiveness.
But, being a graduate of D.A.R.E. and a police officer himself, Anderson is a big supporter.
“I’m a very big proponent of the program,” he said. “I just think it’s super important. Everybody is going to make their own decisions as they go along later in life, but if we can give these kids the tools they need to make the right decisions, they’ll be a whole lot better off.”
Another benefit, Anderson pointed to is how it helps police departments connect with kids and forge positive relationships with people from an early age.
“It’s huge. It’s a great recruiting tool,” Anderson said. “That’s not the main focus by any stretch of the imagination, but I can remember to this day who my DARE officer was as well as my school resource officers in high school.
“I’d be remiss in not saying they had an influence on me in this career path.”
Also for sure is the fact that dangerous choice are out there for students even in Palmyra.
“We live in a great community, but we are definitely not immune to those possibilities that will arise for these kids as they get older.
“They are going to have to face them just as everybody else does.”