CHUBBUCK — Kellyrae Gholston says she’s been busy working behind the scenes after recently starting as the Chubbuck Police Department’s new Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer.
As a DARE officer — she completed an 80-hour training course in Utah — the Chubbuck resident will teach programs in schools, organize talks, work with teachers and students, and attempt to make a difference for youths.
She said the Utah program is amazing. Twenty-five future DARE officers from five different states participated.
“It was awesome,” Gholston said.
She says a lot of people believe the program, which has been revised a few times since starting in 1983 in Los Angeles, is mainly about drugs. But there’s actually only one lesson on alcohol and tobacco.
The program overall is more about making good decisions, countering bullying and related topics, Gholston said.
And sometimes teachers will request extra lessons on topics that they are having particular issues with. So she has a way to address that need.
“There are curriculum you can pull up,” she said.
But Gholston — who’s a full-time patrol officer with the Chubbuck Police Department — will spend a lot of time early on working to raise money from businesses to fund the program.
“We start doing a lot of fundraising in the fall,” she said. “So we have to go out and we have to find donations. I mean we thrive on donations.”
And she says it’s mostly businesses that donate to keep the program alive.
“That’s the whole DARE program,” she said. “If we don’t have donations we don’t really have much of a program.”
She says the Chubbuck Police Department can donate some things and always has because it’s very supportive of the DARE program.
“But we still have to go find local businesses that want to donate and want to give out things you can use for the graduations or things like that so we can have a good successful program,” Gholston said.
She said they need funds to buy workbooks and DARE pencils and related items for each 45-minute to hour-long DARE presentation.
“The workbooks are a part of graduating the program,” she said. “So you can’t work if you don’t have a workbook.”
She says the program overall costs about $7,000 for one semester.
“Which is why donations are so important,” she said.
But she notes that the program has a long-lasting impact and there is science to prove it and back up the curriculum. And curriculum experts change it as needed.
She says the program, and even just allowing students to interact with a police officer, are both valuable for young people.
“I know that just having a positive interaction with law enforcement before they head off to junior high and high school is something that can be even more long lasting than the DARE program,” she said.
And she looks forward to having students eventually say, “Hey, that’s my DARE officer,” when they see her at school.
The program will be offered at Ellis Elementary, Chubbuck Elementary, Tyhee Elementary, Gem Prep and the Connor Academy.
But she didn’t want to rush anything as the schools deal with the COVID-19 situation.
“I thought I’d let everybody get up and get started and get their protocol going before I went and talked with them,” she said.
So she decided to schedule for January through May to teach the program in the schools, in addition to serving one day a week on patrol.
Hopefully the DARE program schedule will work for schools despite COVID.
“That’s the hard thing is it’s so ever changing that you just have to roll with it,” Gholston said. “But they are still welcoming us coming into the schools.”
In general the teachers like to have the DARE officers there and it’s a good presence to have in any case, she said. And she can wear her DARE mask as needed.
“Other than that I don’t think it’s going to be much different from what they already have going,” Gholston said.
She adds that she’s personally come full circle on the DARE program.
“It’s something I remember when I was a kid,” she said. “I remember my DARE officers, I remember my school resource officers and I think that played a big part in probably why I’m here today.”
She said he loves working with the youths in school and trying to make a difference for them.
So come January she plans to teach the DARE program for the fifth and sixth grades over the course of 10 weeks.
And of course she’ll need to adjust to the COVID changes as the school year continues, she said.
But she looks forward to getting into the five schools and has high hopes for the impact of the program for students in those schools.
She aims to present 14 DARE classes from January into April, with graduation generally in May.
“I hope to be a good role model for the kids that need it and be a good impression on the kids in the schools,” Gholston said. “It’s something that I think is super important.”