MFL MarMac D.A.R.E program remains strong

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Another group of MFL MarMac fifth graders graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program last week. The students are pictured here with their instructor, Mar-Mac Police Chief Jason Bogdonovich, and guest speaker Michael Aschinger. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Clayton County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Michael Aschinger speaks to students about self control during their D.A.R.E graduation last week.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Another class of MFL MarMac fifth graders graduated from the D.A.R.E. program last week. 

Founded in Los Angeles in 1983, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program dares kids to resist drugs, alcohol and violence. 

Since he began teaching D.A.R.E. in 2002, Mar-Mac Police Chief Jason Bogdonovich said the curriculum has undergone several changes, including the addition of topics like bullying and peer pressure.

“It had to adapt to all the things kids have to face,” he said.

Students Abby Schellhorn, Carlie Jones and Isabella Bogdonovich were selected to read essays they wrote, reflecting on what they learned from the program. The curriculum change was evident in their words, which not only included vows to stay away from drugs and alcohol, but to not bully others and to help those who are being bullied.

“Peer pressure is very hard,” said principal Denise Mueller, who also spoke at the graduation, “but, when you say no, you can become a leader. Learning how to make healthy and wise decisions can really change your life.”

Students also spoke about learning from others’ body language and reacting to and diffusing bad situations.

Guest speaker Michael Aschinger, chief deputy of the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, touched on this in one of his last duties before leaving the department last week.

“One of the biggest gifts is the ability to control yourself,” Aschinger told the students. One way to do that, he said, is to control one’s breathing, tricking the body.

Aschinger instructed the students to take a big breath in, hold it, then release. He had them repeat the exercise three times.

“That system, when you take control, your brain says, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’” he explained. “I guarantee you’ll be able to think more clearly when you do it.

“It might seem silly, but it’s something I still do. Self control helps with bullies and when you’re deciding whether or not to do something.”

Reflecting on the closure of his time in the area, as he and his family plan to move to Utah, Aschinger also advised the students to be thankful for their upbringing.

“You’re blessed to come from where you come from,” he said. “There are phenomenal police departments who care and are close to the communities,” he added, citing Mar-Mac, Monona and county law enforcement personnel.

Bogdonovich said keeping everyone safe and healthy is a community effort. D.A.R.E. has a triangle concept, he noted, with points for law enforcement, the school and parents. 

“If one side is missing, the program won’t be successful,” he said. “Over the years, some programs have died out, but ours has remained strong.”

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