Before I moved to the comfort of being surrounded by corn fields, I lived in the south suburbs of Chicago. Crime was an eminent force, but I was rarely, if ever directly affected by it. Since my neighborhood was very close to the high school it was well patrolled, and there was rarely any disturbances. But I can’t help but wonder how my life would’ve been different if I lived on the other side of Route 30. I can’t help but wonder how my life would’ve been different if I hadn’t been educated on the dangers of making the wrong decision.
Sergeant Dave Benson has been a part of the Crown Point Police Department for 25 years and has been educating elementary students through Drug Abuse Resistance Education for eight years.
“We’ve got quite a historic D.A.R.E program, our D.A.R.E program started in 1990, and I’m one of many D.A.R.E officers throughout the years. The D.A.R.E officer before me left the department for another job and I volunteered for it, and I’ve been doing it for eight years now,” Benson said.
While Benson has only been a part of the program for eight years, it has benefitted students for much longer.
“Well, it’s like anything else, its knowledge. It helps students, gives students another tool to know about bad things that are out there, bad things that can cross their path in middle school years, high school years or college after that. It’s basically another tool to help [them] make good decisions as well,” Benson said.
While the program has held a role in the community for many years, the curriculum hasn’t stayed the same.
“That’s what a lot of what the D.A.R.E program [is] about nowadays; is helping them make good decisions. We’ve got a tool that we have the students use extensively throughout completing our workbook called [the] Dare Decision Making Model and basically they're four steps. We present them with a situation the student needs to define the problem, what is the particular situation and why is it a problem for them,” Benson said. “Then they assess their choices, choices good and bad. If it’s a good choice they’ll be rewarded and move on. If it’s a bad choice we’ll have consequences, [it] could be a health consequence, maybe a legal consequence; getting in trouble with their parents or at school, with the law or maybe even a social consequence. Those that make poor choices are sometimes looked down upon by a majority of good kids and they suffer social consequences, which affect them later on in different situations.”
Not only does Benson teach his students about situations they will encounter as they get older, he also has high school role models who help him relate with the students.
"As far as the students go we involve high school role models in three of our lessons; there are 13 lessons altogether, and the very last lesson that the students participate in is a D.A.R.E role model lesson, which is lesson 13. We time this for May, and in May, these 5th graders are [going to] have middle school heavy on their mind. They may have or have not had orientation at the middle school yet, but they’re going to be thinking about it,” Benson said. “The high school role model lesson is probably the most important lesson and the students take away the most knowledge from that lesson because these seniors; they’ve been there and done that. They’ve been through middle school, they’ve been through high school, they’re ready to move on to bigger and better things and they can alleviate a lot of the 5th graders fears about middle school. [They] also give them good advice about how important it is to have a vision and goals; the important things to remember. [Explaining] when a bad thing crossed their path how they handled it with the tools in their toolbox, D.A.R.E being one of them. Also, they talked about the positive influences that they’ve had along the way that helped them be successful.”
Benson may not be able to reach every individual, but he believes that having a positive role model is essential.
“I would give them the advice saying that not all of us are lucky to have positive role models, some of us have them and if we’re fortunate to have those positive role models in our lives or even at our house, in our home or as neighbors, we need to concentrate on those positive people,” Benson said. “I [also] have a message for adults, parents, and leaders you need to set the example for young people. You want to give them that good, positive example. One thing about being a leader is that if you show a positive way the majority will follow.”