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April 3--  Fifth graders at Sally D. Meadows Elementary School in Vidalia attended their graduation from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program taught each year by Corporate Dwayne Carpenter of the Vidalia Police Department.

Assistant District Attorney Tripp Fitzner encouraged the students to overcome peer pressure, "You have to start with the understanding that you can't make everybody happy, it's impossible.  If you surround yourself with the kinds of people who make fun of you for wanting to stay straight, for wanting to get good grades and for doing the right thing, then you need new friends.  I promise all of you that you can make friends who will make you better and not less because that is what friendship means," he said.

Seniors from Vidalia High School who serve as DARE role models attended the graduation including Reba Warnock who says being a role model is also good for her, "I think it adds pressures because they are all looking up to me.  They are looking at us as athletes, people in clubs and people who going to college on scholarships and they see that if we can do it, they can do it, all you have to do is be drug free," she said.

Role model Martasia Johnson remembers being the DARE program when she was a fifth grader at Sally D. Meadows, "It's made a really big impact on my life.  Being drug free and going before these fifth graders and them looking up to us and seeing they don't have to do drugs and feel peer pressure and stuff like that."

vpddareessayAt the end of the ten-week course, students compete in an essay contest about what they have learned. 

The overall winner this year is Aleah Ajoda, right, with DARE Officer Carpenter. 

Other individual class winners are Ryleigh Ellis, William Ellison, Jaylen Rhymes, Maniyah Phillips, Justin Willis, Gregory Shoats and Noah Harris.

For staff use only.