Fifth graders complete DARE course

Redoubt Elementary School fifth-graders congratulated teammates with fist bumps for correct answers to trivia questions during their final Drug Abuse Resistance Education class on Wednesday.


Soldotna police officer Tobin Brennan, who teaches the course, asked the four teams of students questions reviewing health-risk facts about tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and inhalants. They also came up with activities — like playing basketball or baseball or riding bike – students can do instead when offered drugs.

The trivia contest capped off 12 weeks of D.A.R.E. classes for fifth-graders at Redoubt, Soldotna and K-Beach Elementary Schools.

Brennan said fifth grade is the “perfect” age because the students will soon be in middle school where they will have to make decisions regarding drugs, alcohol and bullying.

“We spend much more time on decision making and finding other things to do and how to stay in charge,” Brennan said. … “We affirm what they know. They know drugs are bad.”

Brennan said drug and alcohol use for kids is “on the decrease.”

“I think a lot of it has to do with education,” Brennan said. “We throw shocking stuff at them.”

This is Brennan’s second year teaching the course. He said has really enjoyed the experience and getting to know the students. Each classroom has a D.A.R.E. box that students can anonymously drop in written questions. During the first five minutes of every D.A.R.E. class, Brennan answers the questions ranging from, “Is it fun being a cop?” to “Why is spice legal?” The questions help students get to know Brennan and his job.

“The kids are great,” he said. “You go from a big scary guy with a gun … then you come in and interact with them … and build a great relationship.”

D.A.R.E. graduation for the 153 fifth graders was on Friday at 6 p.m. in the auditorium at Soldotna High School.

The students, wearing their new D.A.R.E. T-shirts, walked into the auditorium to a recording of Pomp and Circumstance. There were three speakers at the ceremony.

Chief of police Peter Mlynarik spoke to the graduates about the importance of the program.

“If you, the student, apply the information (from D.A.R.E.), you’re going to make a brighter future for you and those around you,” he said.

The next speaker was Larry Semmens, chief of staff for Sen. Peter Micciche. He shared a personal story about his brother who lost his life to drugs.

Amber Hamer told her story next. The now 15-year-old graduated from the D.A.R.E. program as a fifth-grader from Kalifornsky Beach. Her father used drugs, and she said without the program, she probably would have used harmful substances too.

“D.A.R.E. made me not afraid to take a stand,” she said.

Prior to the graduation ceremony students wrote essays about what they learned in their D.A.R.E. classes. With assistance from other staff members in the Soldotna Police Department, Brennan chose a top essay from each of the six classes. The winners were announced and received prizes at the ceremony.

The top essay of the six finalists, Ryan Hill from K-Beach, won a new mountain bike from Beemun’s Bike and Ski Loft sponsored by the Rotary Club of Soldotna. He also received a kids Tri The Kenai triathlon race registration pass and read his essay to the audience.

Students celebrated their graduation with cake donated from Safeway and a lock-in sponsored by the Soldotna High swimming and diving team.


Kaylee Osowski can be reached at


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