Police officers from six states, representing 21 law enforcement agencies attended and graduated from the Drug Awareness Resistance Education or DARE training July 1 in Oklahoma City. At the closing graduation ceremony, Altus police officer Jessica Sly was named outstanding DARE officer.
“I remember being in the fifth-grade and first learning about the DARE program,” said Sly, who was born and raised in Michigan. “The program was taught by a female police officer and I guess it inspired me to also become a police officer.”
Sly is also a school reading mentor and recalls reading to some younger students and noticing they seemed scared and afraid to open up, which sparked her to figure out a way to ease their fears. She approached Chief Tim Murphy about adding DARE to the Altus Police Department programs and implementing it in Altus Public Schools.
Sly introduced the DARE program to the Altus School Board and they unanimously approved for all sixth-grade students participate in the 10-week program. The next step for Sly and the DARE program is to meet with Altus Intermediate School Principal Lori Redden and work on the DARE program implementation plan. All sixth-grade students will need an activity lesson workbook for the course that meets once a week for a 45 minute lesson.
“I hope to give each student a DARE T-shirt on their graduation day,” Sly said.
The DARE program is funded by donations or a sponsoring organization. Each workbook costs $1.29 and the official DARE T-shirt is an additional expense.
The new DARE curriculum is very different from the original program. The previous one focused on drugs and its affects. The new DARE program is based on life skills, risks and consequences, and provides long life learning tools. Define, assess, respond, and evaluate, is the new approach.
Sly’s two-week training involved a classroom setting from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with evenings spent working on speeches, lesson plans and competitions. Sly met police officers from six states, where she made new friends and networked.
“I was able to break out of my comfort zone, because I am not use to talking to a large number of people,” Sly said.
“First, let me say that I’m proud of what our police officers, as well as our other employees, do for our citizens and community every day here in Altus,” said Altus Police Chief Tim Murphy. “I am exceptionally proud of Officer Sly for her dedication and hard work during this demanding two weeks of DARE training. The Altus Police Department and Altus Public Schools looks forward to her instructing DARE to our children this upcoming school year.”
DARE community networking outreach programs are also available to day cares, schools, churches and groups. They are 45 minutes long and tailored for preschool up to to high school age students.
“I hope that each student will have a positive police officer experience and realize we are their friends, also to understand the risk and consequences involved with the choices we make and to be aware of their networks, who and where to go for help, ” Sly said.
Sly has been an Altus police officer for two years. Her husband Mitchel Blake is on active duty at the Altus Air Force Base and employed as an operational manager for civil engineering. They have a two-year-old daughter named Brooklyn.
Reach Mary O. Esparza at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.