Lake Murray Elementary principal Kelly Reese vividly remembers her time in the fifth grade and the positive impact a Drug Awareness and Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) officer had on her.
“I have no idea what office he worked for, but I remember how fun his lessons were,” Reese said. “We didn’t have resource officers in the schools back then and I remember being really impressed that Officer Dave came to our school every week to teach us. It was a memorable time in my childhood.”
Fast forward to 2019, and Reese is being honored for the role she plays at her school with helping to implement the D.A.R.E. program. Reese was named the 2019 South Carolina D.A.R.E. Educator of the Year on June 13 at the annual D.A.R.E. Association of South Carolina conference.
The award goes to one educator in the state each year. D.A.R.E. teaches students how to make good choices, resist peer pressure and live productive drug and violence-free lives. The program at Lake Murray Elementary is taught over a 10-week program to fourth graders. She was nominated for the award by her School Resource Officer and D.A.R.E. instructor Todd Minemier.
“The reason I nominated Mrs. Reese is because she sees the importance of my relationship with the students,” said Senior Deputy Todd Minemier, Richland County Sheriff’s Department. “She not only supports the D.A.R.E program, but she also supports the law enforcement relationship role in the community. She does everything she possibly can to show the positive things that I am doing at the school.”
“I am certainly very honored to be named the D.A.R.E Educator of the Year, but I also feel like this award goes to our School Resource Officer,” said Reese. “All of the credit for this award goes to Officer Minemier, our fourth grade teachers, who allow the time for the D.A.R.E. course to be taught in their classrooms, and our students who engage in the course. Officer Minemier does the hard work because he puts in the time and energy to build relationships with children and does so much more than D.A.R.E.”
Minemier also coordinates the school’s safety patrol and teaches Stranger Danger lessons to students. He says he views himself first as a teacher, then a guidance counselor and third a police officer.
“You can walk the hallways for years and you just never get to know the students the way that you get to know them by being in the classroom,” Minemier said. “I have been teaching D.A.R.E. for 30 years and I can say the 10 weeks that I spend in the classroom are some of the closest relationships that I have ever had with students. I still have contact with students that I taught 30 years ago that are now turning 40.”
D.A.R.E. was founded in 1983 and has proven so successful that it has been implemented in thousands of schools throughout the United States and 50 other countries.