HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Fifth-graders of Euclid and Lincoln Elementary schools took part in the culmination of their participation in D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), on Wednesday, January 8, in the Old Gym. The program is designed to help kids stay drug-free by teaching them not only about the dangers of drug use, but strategies for resisting the temptations to use drugs. 

The now-international program originated in Los Angeles in 1983.

This was the 31st annual culmination ceremony for the Hasbrouck Heights School district which is run by the Hasbrouck Heights Police Department. Sgt. Alan Baker had been the educator for the program, during which the children had been carefully instructed on the consequences of drug use. In addition to discussion of illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco use was also talked about. D.A.R.E. sessions took place once a week for ten weeks, with teacher-led practice I the classrooms leading up to graduation from the program.

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Asked to summarize the message the children received from D.A.R.E., Baker said, “Stay drug-free, and you’re going to be successful.”

The ceremony opened with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of “God Bless America.” Fifth-graders Isabel Bohan and Benjamin Sedycias acted as masters of ceremonies throughout the evening. All the fifth-graders took part in singing a song which summed up their determination to avoid the use of drugs.

Mayor Jack DeLorenzo told the students that there were a lot of messages out there vying for their attention, but that the community is behind them, noting that “we’re here to support you and do all we can to keep you drug-free.”

Hasbrouck Heights Police Chief Michael Colaneri said that in his job he had seen first-hand the effects of drug use, and told of how he had often had to tell people that their loved ones had died from drug use. He told the kids that somewhere, at some time, someone will try to offer them something, whether it be drugs, alcohol or tobacco. He said he believed that the D.A.R.E. model of teaching resistance techniques is a good one and that the program had been successful.

Chief Colaneri also had a message for the parents: if something doesn’t seem right, go with your gut. He told the kids that when their parents do this is it because they love and care for them.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Matthew Helfant noted that D.A.R.E. also stands for Define, Assess, Respond and Educate, which sums up what is taught during the program. He said that D.A.R.E. teaches kids important decision-making skills.

Also speaking at the podium were six winners of a D.A.R.E. essay contest, three from each school, who read their essays on what they learned from the program and how they plan to put what they learned into effect. The winners were Gianna Focarino; Morgan Murray; Franka Cutrone-Kuhl; Christopher DeJesus, Jr.; Thomas Stevens; and Mariam Safwat.

The kids’ essays gave a great deal of information as to what they learned during the ten weeks of sessions. Noted were the various bad consequences of using drugs, alcohol and tobacco; including yellow teeth, upper respiratory problems and lung disease from tobacco use, and slow reflexes from alcohol use. One of the students said that she plays sports and would not want slow reflexes. Two others mentioned loved ones in connection with the use of tobacco. The issue of bullying was touched upon, as was the importance of saying no if offered any of these substances and staying away from people who do. One student noted the importance of communication, and the decision-making strategies learned in D.A.R.E. that can be applied to everyday situations throughout all of one’s life.

Baker told the families assembled that night that even if a student remembers just one resistance strategy taught in the D.A.R.E. program, he has done his job. He said that any education about responsibility begins at home: “You have to be a parent, and not just a friend.” 

As an important aside, he told the assembly that there was to be a session on internet safety in the media room that night and invited parents to attend, so as to be updated on the many dangers for kids on the web.

The students all took part in a choral recitation of “Our Rights,” led by students Eoin Maloney and Gina Minichiello. Certificates were handed out to all the students.

The fifth-grade teachers participating were Mrs. Robertson, Mrs. Bari, Mrs. Palladino, Mrs. McKernan, Mrs. Verdi and Mrs. Valente of Euclid School; and Mrs. Dubofsky, Mrs. LaTorre, Mrs. Brancato, Ms. Young, Mrs. Altamura and Mrs. Pennisi of Lincoln School.

The following are the 2020 D.A.R.E. graduates from the Hasbrouck Heights School district:

Euclid School: Ava Baker, Isabel Bohan, Jake Bolsch, Stanley Burns, Lucas Capozzoli, Franka Cutrone-Kuhl, Cyril DeGuzman, Natasha Duran Gonzalez, Harper Eddy, Nathaniel Galvez, Lena Kaiser, Jenna Korteling, Joseph Parise, Matthew Samperi, Pranav Santhosh, Maggie Schaffer, Enric Soni, Cole Sudol, Matthew Tucci, Nur Turkmani, Santiago Vera, Gavin Abromowicz, Bella Aguirre, Daniel Baez, Myles Bennett, Jake Britton, Tanisha Chapin Penarreta, Anna Christopoulos, Joshua Daniels, Angelo DeCastro Querubin, Christopher DeJesus Jr., Rosa Diaz, Elias Ferguson, Jacquelyn Keezer, Sejla Markovic, Austin Martinez, Richard Osei Escobar, Ella Perrapato, Jaden Picinich, Ethan Saltos, Carlene Sideco, Levon Yigitkurt, Bryan Zhu, Youssef Abdelkader, Shehab Ashour, Jade Baratta, Frank Bono, Evelette Broncano, Jessica Calbi, Bianca Collins, Nathan DeSantis, Gianna Focarino, Andres Guaman, Connor Hernandez, Eoin Maloney, Angelee Marte, Sean McGill, Matteo Mezzacapo, Carla Mutua, Joseph Pennisi, Isabelle Pereira, Salvatore Riccobono, Nickolas Vasilaropoulos, Aidan Werner, Lily Yacovelli


Lincoln School: Abigail Almonte Sanchez, Mateo Alvarez, Gabriella Amendola, Bryant Andrade, Cayleigh Bischoff, Christopher Blum, Alexander Cevallos, Madelyn Connelly, Alba Darch, Meredy DeLaCruz, Lorenzo Lee, Ashley Martinez-Luna, Alexandra Masias, Ronald Menne, Gina Minichiello, Jazlynn Mora, Janelle Morales, Morgan Murray, Sarah Najjar, Talia Paradiso, Daniel Powers, Khalep Rodriguez, Abby Sato, Logan Spittle, Ahmed Abdalla, Alex Andersen, Tyler Bancea, Sarah Batista, Giuseppe Capozzoli, Nicolas Carvajal, Justin Castro, Nikolette Economou, Ethan Espinas, Graciella Hernandez, Farah Jawabrah, Abdul Rahman Khan, Fiona Lepenica, Amy Long, Farehan Rajab, Frida Rajab, Kayleigh Roldan, Mariam Safwat, Benjamin Sedycias, Oledia Shehu, Kiyora Torres, Selin Akdikmen, Alexa Bennett, Nisheka Burrell, Jonathan Cuccio, Hannah Ebid, Yehia Elsissi, Magdalene Fass, Julene Garcia, Jenna Guido, Abigail Krommenhoek, Gianna Maucione, Alivia Mazza, Robert McGurran, Sofia Monchino, Rocco Pantiliano, Sonnie Perrelli, Amaya Pinet, Nicholas Rizo, Taylor Sabo, David Soto, Thomas Stevens, Mustafa Taskin, Nicholas Tufo-DeFranco, Vanessa Vitelli


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