by Kristen M. deGuehery
Lewiston Police Department Officer Scott Stafford opened the D.A.R.E. graduation ceremonies at Stella Niagara Education Park by stating that he was "blown away by what the essay writers came up with." Each year, the SNEP fifth-grade class participates in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. Stafford has been the instructing officer at Stella Niagara for 12 years. Graduation was held on June 15 in the school auditorium.
"The essay wraps up what the students have learned throughout the whole semester," Stafford said.
Essay contest winners Christopher Belter and Ellen Diez read their compositions to the audience. Both students highlighted the dangers of abusing illegal drugs and alcohol.
Also attending the ceremony was DARE officer John Penzotti, LPD Chief Chris Salada, Town of Lewiston councilman and Stella Niagara alumnus Michael Marra, and Supervisor Steve Reiter.
"Review your D.A.R.E. toolbox," Salada encouraged the students. "It will help when you are confronted by peer pressure to take illegal drugs."
Stafford concluded the ceremony by saying, "Lewiston has the biggest 'gang' in Niagara County, our own army of drug fighters," referring to the number of students who have successfully completed the D.A.R.E. program. While other local communities have had to discontinue D.A.R.E., the LPD continues its commitment to the program.