ORCUTT, Calif. – Elementary students in Northern Santa Barbara County are continuing to receive D.A.R.E. education in school thanks to a recent donation by the Sheriff’s Benevolent Posse.
“What it means is the D.A.R.E. program continues on,” said Leslie Avila, (Ret.) Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Deputy and current D.A.R.E. instructor. “Without the generosity of the Posse and other donations, the D.A.R.E. program cannot be funded.”
Budget cuts to the Sheriff’s Office placed the long-running program on the cutting block.
Facing a $5.5 million hit to the budget, Sheriff Bill Brown had no other alternative than to eliminate multi-dimensional education course that teaches important life skills.
“D.A.R.E. gives them good decision making skills,” said Benevolent Posse president Richard Kline.”It’s life decision making skills, so it helps them understand the difference between good and bad, the difference between taking drugs and not taking drugs, the difference between abusing different substances and not different substances.”
With D.A.R.E. facing elimination, the Benevolent Posse recently stepped in and donated $40,000.
Kline emphasized the sizable contribution was important to keeping the course running in schools.
“Sheriff Bill Brown feels D.A.R.E. is a tremendous benefit to the county in preventing future juvenile delinquents, preventing future criminals,” Kline said. “It’s had a direct impact. It’s had direct impact that has helped some children avoid being part of the criminal justice system.”
The donation is just the latest made to the department by the Sheriff’s Benevolent Posse.
In the last year, funds have been donated to build a barn that serves as headquarters for the department’s Mounted Enforcement Unit.
In June, the Posse purchased a new laptop and case for the department’s Rural Crime Investigator.
The D.A.R.E. donation will fund the program at eight different north county schools, including Pine Grove Elementary, Joe Nightingale Elementary, Alice Shaw Elementary, Patterson Road Elementary, Ralph Dunlap Elementary, Olga Reed Elementary, Orcutt Academy Charter School and Santa Ynez Christian Academy.
Nearly 600 students are receiving D.A.R.E. education over the course of 10 weeks.
Education goes far beyond drug resistance awareness, which was the program’s initial goal when it was created in Los Angeles County in 1983.
D.A.R.E. has been taught on-and-off in Santa Barbara County since the late 1980’s.
Students now receive instruction in areas such as alcohol and violence education, peer pressure, self-esteem, decision making, listening, conflict management, support network building and much more.
“They (students) use this model to decide what their problem is, to make safe and responsible choices and to think about the consequences of their actions,” said Avila. “It’s life skills and if they make safe and responsible choices, they won’t have to make the choice about using drugs or using other unhealthy behavior because they will have gone through the process.”
Funding from the Posse only covers the program during the fall semester, leaving a sizable gap needed to be filled to ensure it continues during the spring semester.
“We’re working to raise additional funds to help fund the balance of the year,” said Kline. “We’ve reached out to some foundations asking for assistance from them and our intent is to raise those monies so we can continue the program for the entire year.”
For anyone interested in donating towards the D.A.R.E. program or for more information on the Benevolent Posse, visit www.sbsheriffposse.org