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More than 250 graduate from U.S. Jones DARE Program

They didn’t wear caps and gowns, but more than 250 fifth graders received t-shirts, certificates Friday morning as they graduated from the DARE program.

Demopolis officer Marty Hoven, in charge of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, told those gathered that the children graduating had learned a lot, and had taught him a lot, “but you still have one more test,” he said.

“You took the pretest, and you did as I expected, not very well. Then you took the post-test, and you all did very well. But there is one more test, and this one is only pass or fail,” he told the children gathered in the elementary school’s gym. “If you avoid drugs, alcohol and tobacco for the rest of your life, you pass. If you don’t, you fail.”

That last word was echoed by the students loudly and proudly.

“You put me on the spot some this year, but I put some of you on the spot, too,” Hoven said. He said after 11 years of teaching the program, he never ceases to enjoy it.

While Hoven is the one person children associate with the class, he said the program would not be possible without the cooperative effort of a lot of people.

“I want to recognize my boss, Jeff Manuel, and the police department for allowing me the time to do this program,” he said. Hoven explained that he had so many children to get to that it took most of the day two days a week to complete the class.

“I spend the better chunk of Tuesday and Thursday at the school. I’m here from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one day and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second, so that’s a big part of my time,” he said.

Additionally, it’s a big part of the teachers’ time, and Hoven thanked them for allowing him to com e into their rooms and teach this program.

A big thankyou went to the Demopolis Chamber of Commerce and Johnny Brooker, who organizes the Christmas on the River Jingle Bell Run, because, he said, the t-shirts given to each student for comppleting the course would not have been possible were it not Brooker and those at the chamber.

“They donated $750 from the Jingle Bell Run to buy the t-shirts,” Hoven said. “It cost all that and more, but we couldn’t have done it if they hadn’t given us that money.”

Hoven said other resources include the Demopolis City Council and school board. But the most important one, he said, is the parents.

“This is a cooperative effort of the police department, the school and the parents,” he told the hundred or so parents and other friends and family gathered.

“Without you reinforcing this at home, it would do no good,” he said. “So I thank you.”