Friday, November 2, 2018

D.A.R.E. to Adventure students raise funds and help community through “Labor for Donations”

D.A.R.E to Adventure members hard at work
By Elizabeth Richards

Leadership skills, communication skills, community building, bridging social groups and outdoor adventure training are just a few of the benefits for students who participate in D.A.R.E. to Adventure at Windham Middle School. 

The program goes well beyond the traditional Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) curriculums. Led by Community Service Officer Matt Cyr of the Windham Police Department, the program incorporates elements similar to programs like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Outward Bound to teach students leadership skills. 

The group is made up of 20 students – ten seventh and ten eighth graders - from all different social groups who have shown leadership qualities or potential. “Our goal is for them to come out and learn leadership and team building, then go back to their peers and help their peers make good decisions. That’s the big idea,” Cyr said.“The reason we keep it so small is because of the mentoring piece that happens. I get pretty close to all of them,” Cyr said.

The group meets after school on Mondays and Wednesdays, participating in both team building and skill building activities. In the spring, Cyr begins teaching students how to roll a kayak. “It’s not so much about the kayaking as what they gain from doing it,” he said. Not everyone is successful with the roll, but they gain confidence, a sense of accomplishment for the things they can do and learn about taking positive risks.

The year culminates with an outdoor adventure trip. They begin with a ropes course then alternate between two days of whitewater rafting one year and a day of rock climbing and one of rafting the next. Cyr also teaches the students First Aid and CPR, and all are required to complete this training before going on the year end trip.

While there has always been some fundraising for the D.A.R.E. to Adventure program, it didn’t come close to paying for that year end trip. Student Josh Noyes said that he and his mother didn’t think it was right for Cyr to have to fund a large portion of the trip. They set a goal of raising $5000 this year to fully fund the trip for all the students. 

The whole goal is that he doesn’t have to pay for it, and we get a part in it,” Noyes said of their fundraising program called “Labor for Donations.”  D.A.R.E. to Adventure students go door to door asking people if they have any work they need completed. They have shoveled loam, moved brush and have other jobs, including fall clean up, coming. Parents of students in the program have also stepped up, donating their time to the efforts.

Kimberly Noyes, Josh’s mother, said that Officer Cyr is passionate about the D.A.R.E. to Adventure program and truly cares for kids in Windham. He makes the students – and their parents – passionate about the program as well, she said.

Morgan Hammond, a student participant, said that Labor for Donations helps the community as well. “Before, we didn’t do as much for other people,” she said. 

Haley Atherton added, “It helps other people learn about what Dare to Adventure is all about and how we’re helping the community. Not a lot of adults really know about this great program and how it really affects everyone else in the school district, and how we’re helping our community in different ways.” fundraisers include possibly shoveling in the winter, a fundraiser dance, participating in a craft fair at the high school on November 10 and 11, and activities at summer fest.

The program creates close bonds among participants. Atherton said she has learned leadership skills and made friends she wouldn’t have otherwise known. “The kids that are in the group now wouldn’t have really met each other or talked to each other if we hadn’t been in this program. It helps us become really good friends,” she said. 

Atherton thinks the program will help them later as well. “In high school when we go back into these social groups that we’re in, it will help us help our friends, but also help us when we get into those tough situations. It helps us build a better thought process,” she said.

Levi McDonald agreed.  “It helps me get more social with other people and learn leadership and how to have fun and make the right choices, positive choices,” he said. 

D.A.R.E. to Adventure also helps build bridges between social groups the students said. “If there’s any drama between social groups, there’s always people that know each other,” said Hammond.  “It’s exactly like a team with any sport. You all get along with everyone and learn stuff as a group. You get to see beyond your friends,” she said.
Finn Smith said, “I feel like DARE is a good place to make lifelong friends.”

Students who participate in D.A.R.E. to Adventure often maintain contact with Cyr and come back to mentor younger students. Their reasons for doing so vary, but all emphasize the positive impact of the program.  

Tenth grader Ezra Smith said he returns because he wants younger kids to know they have someone to support them when they go to high school.  “It’s good to be somewhere you feel accepted,” he said.

Kyle McLeese, a ninth grader, said, “I definitely gained a lot of friends from the program, and people who accept me for who I am, so I keep coming back for that.”

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