Gowanda Middle School holds annual DARE graduation

GOWANDA – The Gowanda Middle School recently held its fifth annual DARE graduation ceremony in the Gowanda High School Auditorium which was donned with the balloons, flowers and awards.

DARE Officer Jen Alessi and GMS Principal Dave Smith opened the ceremony with thanks to the sponsors, parents and teachers for making the program possible. Alessi spoke of how the program bonds kids with police officers and the importance of the relationship throughout their years of school and beyond; and how the program has evolved into not only drug prevention, but violence prevention as well as bullying and learning to make good choices. This year in particular the new “Keepin’ it Real” curriculum helps students act decisively in refusing offers to drugs and alcohol, helps students recognize risks and avoiding drug related situations, building strong decision-making, communication, planning and assertive skills – so important when faced with peer pressure, empowers the students to value their own perceptions and feelings and make choices that support drug free values.

Guests included board of education member Ann Martindale, Gowanda Mayor Heather McKeever, Trustee Carol Sheibley, Gowanda Police Chief Joe Alessi and Joan Goodemote.

Special guest speakers were the Honorable Erie County Sheriff Chief Scott Joslyn, and Jessica Sherman, face to face director and Peter, an alumni from Renaissance Campus, both from Kids Escaping Drugs. Chief Joslyn and Peter both spoke about the importance of making good choices and staying in school and how important it is to remember what they learned in the DARE program. The GMS fifth graders were recognized for their hard work in DARE. Each student received a DARE T-shirt and a certificate of accomplishment.

One student from each of the fifth-grade classes was chosen as the essay winner and shared their essay with the audience. There were also first runner-ups from each class. They each received a medal and a mini version of the DARE mascot, Daren, in his graduation cap. Winners were: Joshua Enser, Mr. Cocca’s class; Kevin Cygan, Mrs. Sarver’s class; Emagin Warrior, Mrs. Stone’s class; Nicole Whelan, Mrs. Newman’s class; and Alex Neumeister, Mr. Thompson’s class. First runner-up winners were: Trinity Vogtli, Mr. Cocca’s class; Mallory Eddy, Mrs. Sarver’s class; Ashlyn Hise, Mrs. Stone’s class; Mrs. Newman’s class; Patrick Strawder, Mrs. Newman’s class; and Olivia John, Mr. Thompson’s class.

Best classes overall were Mrs. Newman’s and Mr. Thompson’s class and each student received a prize. There were 26 students from all of the fifth grade classrooms recognized for their hard work.

The ceremony ended with remarks from fifth-grade teacher Donald Thompson, who is retiring after 30 years of teaching. It was a memorable evening for all.