D.A.R.E. holds annual conference in Grapevine

For nearly 35 years D.A.R.E. has educated children in schools about the dangers of drug abuse. The organization meets this week at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine.

CEO Frank Pegueros talks to Good Day about how the mission has expanded. He said in the early days D.A.R.E., or Drug Abuse Resistance Education, was basically uniformed police officer going into schools telling kids, “Don’t do drugs.” Now it’s much more sophisticated.

“It has changed quite a bit. We have evolved from a didactic presentation where the officer stood up in front of a classroom for 45 minutes and presented a lot of information to a curriculum now where the officer is more of a facilitator and provides information to students. The students work in small cooperative learning groups to use that information that the officer gave them and transition it into a useful tool that they can use in everyday life to deal with the problems they encounter,” Pegueros said.

The program has also adapted for the changing attitudes towards marijuana. It’s now legal for medicinal and recreational use in some states.

“The availability of the substance certainly reduces the perception of harm which leads to possibly greater use by people. But we’re seeing that communities are recognizing that this is an opportunity for more prevention efforts,” the D.A.R.E. CEO said. “They are seeing the necessity to prepare their children to deal with this in an appropriate fashion.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be speaking at the conference Tuesday specifically about opioid abuse. It’s an enormous crisis that is beyond a law enforcement problem. It’s also a medical and social problem.

“It has become that. As you travel around the country it is so bad that so many sections of the country feel they are the epicenter of this abuse problem,” Pegueros said.

Parents are still a powerful influence in the lives of young people. In fact, Pegueros called them the most important factor in a child’s life.

D.A.R.E. provides resources for parents and families at www.dare.org/parents/. For more information about the conference and speakers, visit conference.dare.org/speakers-and-presenters/.