Sunday, April 21, 2013

DARE to Adventure has lifelong effects by Michelle Libby

DARE to Adventure is an experiential leadership experience for seventh and eighth graders at Windham Middle School. Led by DARE and Windham Police Officer Matt Cyr and skate park manager Lynn Bucknell, the group learns lifelong outdoor and leadership skills through adventures such as kayaking, rock climbing and white water rafting. 

Each year seventh graders are nominated by their teachers for the program. There is an interview, then an oral board made up of former DARE participates and current eighth graders. There are a total of 22 students in the program including some high school leaders who have recently graduated from the program.  

“It’s not just DARE,” said Cyr. Every fifth and seventh grader participates in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, however this is different, he said. “It’s important because of the mentoring and leadership,” he added. 

Dana King spent four years in the program and still talks to Cyr even though he is at Assumption College. “It gave me confidence to be a leader. I was a shy kid,” he said. “I know now I can do what I want to do and get people to follow me if I should choose to do so.”

When Cyr does interviews he attempts to choose kids from each social group. “We look for leaders, fence walkers and at risk kids,” said Cyr. “We bring in the kids that have the potential for leadership.” 

Aaron Murray came into the program at a time when he was going through some tough family issues. “Aaron benefitted the most. DARE came at a time when I was diagnosed with cancer,” said Aaron’s mother Kim Murray, whose daughter also went through the program. “He was able to stay at the skate park when he was old enough to stay there without an adult and they kept an eye on him,” she said. Cyr brought Aaron back as a leader and he was able to help another child that was dealing with cancer in his family. 

“It’s a mix of everybody, athletes like me, music and chorus kids,” said King. “He does really well to get a mixture of kids and have them come together. By the end they all have similarities and all work together to go on that year end trip.”
Sergeant Peter Fulton began the program in 1997. Back then they did a lot of winter camping, white water rafting, horseback riding and canoe trips, said Cyr.
“It didn’t make any sense to me to sleep outside in a tent in the winter,” Cyr said with a chuckle, so he tweaked the program some. 

One of the first participants in the program was Pat Hanson. “They put students in a group together to overcome differences to work together with share experiences,” said Hanson, who is now a first lieutenant in the Air Force. For Hanson, it was the leadership skills that he walked away with that were the most important. “It had a really big impact on my life. At a young age to have a leadership role and fine tune those skills. I went into a leadership role after college,” he said. He also said it gave him more of an interest in alternative sports. 

The ultimate goal is to teach the participants what some of the alternatives are, rather than getting involved with drugs and alcohol. 

“It shows the kids there’s another way to get that rush that other kids are getting from drugs and alcohol,” said King. 

“We are teaching lifelong sports that are a good alternative,” said Cyr. “I hope they go on and make good decisions.” 

“Aaron has earned a lot of respect in the community,” said Kim Murray. “I wish there were more Matt Cyrs in the world and more programs like this,” she said. 

One of the highlights of the program is rolling white water kayaks at Saint Joseph’s College. The kayaks were purchased through a Carol M. White PEP Grant along with the DARE trailer to carry the gear. 

Now the participants learn swift water rescue, rock climbing, use the ropes course and take a white water rafting trip in June. 

Doug Loftis’ son Nick was in the program for two years and has come back as a high school mentor this year. “He had a very good time. It gave him some confidence. He really enjoyed working with Matt,” said Loftis. Nick’s favorite part by far was the end of the year white water trip, said Loftis. 

“He enjoys being an example to the kids by enjoying what he’s doing for the kids in the program,” Loftis said. 

“Every kid is one dumb mistake from being at risk,” Cyr said. His job is to make sure they have a clear head to make good decisions. 

Cyr’s success rate with the kids is undocumented, but he keeps in touch with most of them, he said. Aaron Murray is studying criminal justice at Plymouth State University, most likely because of the guidance and support from Cyr and the program, said Kim Murray. 

“They became who they are because of Matt and our parenting and the people who supported us in the community,” said Kim Murray. “I call (Aaron) the DARE to Adventure kid.”

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your Comments Help Improve Your Community.