She explains they target students of that age to try and reach them before they're first ever offered any drugs or alcohol.
"They do a survey in Canada every couple of years to find out what the average age is that a student in Canada is offered their first drug, whether it's a puff of a cigarette or a drink of alcohol," she explains. "In Canada, the average age is 12."
While D.A.R.E. stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, it also refers to a decision making model the students learn through the program: Define Assess Respond Evaluate.
"That is a good way to make choices no matter what it is," she argues. "We don't just talk about drugs and making choices about that, we talk about if somebody asks you to shoplift or if somebody wants you to do something dangerous that could harm your body, so it's a really good tool to use throughout your life of what are your choices, what is the best way to say no, and looking ahead and saying, is this going to be the best choice for me and my family and my community."
The graduating students demonstrated all that they had learned through the program during an assembly today, when the two classes that took part acted out scenarios using the different ways they can say no to drugs. Several students also read out their essays, which were a requirement to graduate the program. After listing some of the possible effects of taking drugs, like possibly not being able to get a passport and travel if one gets a drug conviction, one student made her promise to always say no.
"I believe we will have at least one encounter when we have to say no to drugs, and D.A.R.E. will help with that," she read. "I pledge to never do anything with drugs or alcohol, no matter the case."
In front of their peers and several parents, each participating student accepted a certificate to signify their completion of the program. Shelkie told their parents that their children are going to have questions about drugs for the next several years, and she maintains the only message they need to give is "drugs are unacceptable, and to not do drugs."