Practice makes perfect, and that's why Lisa Davis continually tried to tempt fifth-graders at Mark Twain Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon with offers of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.
"C'mon, c'mon," the juvenile substance-abuse training coordinator for the sheriff's office said to Athena Cotsonis in a mock peer-pressure situation. "Have some cigarettes."
The 10-year-old held her ground, though. The class had just reviewed how to handle sticky situations.
"(Cigarettes) have 200 poisons in them," said Athena, using a fact to take control of the situation.
Davis then went to Hilda Garcia, 10, and tried to entice her with the offer of alcohol.
"It can damage every organ in your body," Hilda responded.
Davis commended both for their efforts. The fifth-graders were participating in a session of Drug Abuse Resistance Education training. Skills included saying no, using humor and changing the subject.
"It's our job to set boundaries," Davis said. "And to set them far back enough away from the danger, so if a child goes past those boundaries, they don't injure themselves. And that holds true of drug and alcohol abuse, that holds true of anger management, and that's why prevention is so important to me. It's a passion to me."
Mark Twain students will graduate from the DARE program on Dec. 20, and Empire Elementary School students will graduate Dec. 16. Fritsch Elementary School students have already graduated.
Davis, who was recently certified in DARE, will take her program to fifth-grade classrooms at Bordewich-Bray, Fremont and Seeliger elementary schools in the spring semester. She is starting an after-school session of DARE at Carson Middle School next week.
Ten-year-old Kyle Lethcoe is glad she's been coming to their class. A 32-page workbook given to all the fifth-graders provides information on decision making according to the DARE model (Define, Assess, Respond and Evaluate), facts on alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, handling peer pressure and making good friendship choices.
"I like (DARE)," Kyle said. "Because when I grow up I won't do drugs."
He said without the program he wouldn't know how to handle uncomfortable situations or even know that some things are bad.
"I feel prepared," he said.
Davis said that is half the battle, and the reason prevention training starts in elementary school.
"It's to get them ready for middle school, which is where we see the beginning of experimentation," she said. "We're preparing them now."
Davis used to be a juvenile probation officer in Elko and said DARE empowers children to make decisions.
"The juvenile (offenders) I worked with in Elko didn't know they were making a choice," she said. "That's what got them into trouble."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.