McLeansboro Marks 25 Years of D.A.R.E.

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By Emily Finnegan
By Jared Roberts

MCLEANSBORO -- Hamilton County is home to one of the longest running D.A.R.E. programs in the country.

For 25 years, every 6th grader at East Side Elementary has taken the drug prevention classes with either Sheriff Greg Brenner or McLeansboro Police Chief Robert Crow. Brenner held his D.A.R.E. graduation in March; this year marks a major milestone for the men.
 
On Wednesday afternoon, 75 kids took part in Crow's D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony. D.A.R.E. stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education; the international program got its start in Los Angeles in 1983.
 
"Here, I believe the overall benefit isn't necessarily just drugs and alcohol, but it's about the relationship between police officers and kids," Crow said.
 
He started guiding students at East Side Elementary through the course in 1989, alongside Hamilton County Sheriff Greg Brenner. This year, the school recognized their special achievement.
 
"These two gentleman are the two sole, longest, continuous DARE instructors in the world," said Kenneth Cole, a Hamilton County deputy who's also worked for Crow. He read a letter on the sheriff's behalf at Wednesday's ceremony.
 
In his time with the program, Crow's seen its focus change. D.A.R.E. now incorporates lifestyle skills like stress management and confidence building and addresses new types of drugs. 
 
"We talk about methamphetamine, bath salts," Crow told News 3,"and there's a whole new program that we do on prescription drugs."
 
Whatever the topic, Crow is always working to connect with his students. It's a skill he's clearly mastered.
 
"He's just funny and made us all laugh. He jokes around with everybody," said D.A.R.E. graduate Madison Mattingly.
 
And Crow knows from experience that bond, forged at a young age, can make all the difference as these children grow up. 
 
"The kids know that the police officers in our community care about them," he said.
 
Brenner is retiring, so this spring he taught his last class of D.A.R.E. students. Crow is the Democratic nominee to replace Brenner. Crow says he plans to continue the D.A.R.E. program next year with the help of a deputy.
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