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IC students graduate from Drug Awareness Program

  • IC Elementary School sixth graders show their "Jordy" K9 T-shirts that they were given as part of their reward for passing the Drug Awareness Program at the school, at a "graduation" presentation Wednesday. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Charles City Community Policing Officer Duane Ollendick talks at a Drug Awareness Program graduation ceremony for Immaculate Conception sixth graders Wednesday afternoon at the school. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Koryn Osier, an IC Elementary School sixth grader, reads her essay about smoking and vaping during a Drug Awareness Program presentation Wednesday at the school. Behind her are Jodi Hammond-Milleson of the Elks Lodge No. 418, a sponsor of the program, and Charles City Community Policing Officer Duane Ollendick. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Danica Dejongoy, an IC Elementary School sixth grader, reads her essay about bullying and standing up to peer pressure during a Drug Awareness Program presentation Wednesday at the school. Next to her are Jodi Hammond-Milleson of the Elks Lodge No. 418, a sponsor of the program, and Charles City Community Policing Officer Duane Ollendick. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • IC School sixth graders receive a certificate and rewards Wednesday at the school for completing the Drug Awareness Program. Press photo by Bob Steenson

By Bob Steenson, bsteenson@charlescitypress.com

Twenty-three Immaculate Conception Elementary School sixth graders “graduated” Wednesday from a program partnering with the Charles City Police Department to teach drug awareness, building positive self esteem and anti-bullying techniques.

The DAP — Drug Awareness Program — was conducted by Officer Duane Ollendick, the Police Department’s community resource officer. It was supported by a grant through the local Elks Lodge No. 418.

The course material covered eight weekly sessions, but Ollendick joked during a presentation at the school Wednesday afternoon that it actually took more like 14 or 16 weeks because of all the times either snow days or other activities pre-empted the Wednesday meetings.

“But thankfully, because of the great staff at IC School, they were more than willing to adjust their schedules to fit it in so we could finish our class,” he said. “This also showed us the school’s commitment to this program and how important it is for our youth.”

The program discussed alcohol and other drugs, smoking and vaping, but also talked about “how harmful bullying is,” Ollendick said.

“Bullying can occur not only in person, but over the internet on social media,” he said. “We also discussed peer pressure — peer pressure and how it affects the lives of kids growing up today.”

Jodi Hammond-Milleson,  Elks National Foundation grant-writer for the local lodge, said the Foundation provided $1,500 to support the DAP, as well as to support National Night Out, an annual community-building event that promotes strong police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie.

This year’s Community Night Out will be Aug. 6, she said.

As part of the DAP, students wrote essays about what they had learned in the program, and Hammond-Milleson singled out two students who she had chosen — unbeknownst to them — to read their essays to the assembly of other IC students and parents Wednesday.

Koryn Osier was selected to read her essay, telling what she had learned about the negative effects of smoking and vaping.

“Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including bones, blood vessels, the heart, lungs, mouth and many more,” Osier said, reading from her essay.

“Smoking doesn’t just affect your organs, it also affects your appearances. Your fingers and nails can get stained by the tobacco. If you smoke, your teeth will turn yellow, you’ll have bad breath, and could have gum disease,” she read.

Danica Dejongoy was also selected, and read her essay about the negative impact of bullying and how to stand up to peer pressure trying to make you do things that you don’t want to or that you know are harmful.

“Being bullied is one of the worst feelings anyone can go through,” she read. “One word can shatter and break a 206-boned human down.”

Officer Ollendick said programs like DAP are important.

“I feel after our discussions the kids have a much better understanding, and they know what to look for and what to say,” he said.

“If you were to ask any of these students right now what they were going to say if you offered them something bad, I can guarantee they’re going to say ‘no.’ And they understand that it’s OK to go and tell somebody, especially an adult,” Ollendick said.

In addition to certificates for completing the program, each DAP student received a “Jordy” K9 T-shirt from the Police Department and a pass for a free movie and a large popcorn-drink combo from the Charles Theatre.

The sixth-graders who participated in the program were Jase Anderson, Abby Assink, Isabel Crawford, Danica Dejongoy, Catherine Field, Carson Foxen, Payton Hadley, Corbin Harris, Blake Hoeft, Zakey Johnson, Ella Jones, Tayleigh Lantz, Koryn Osier, Lylie Parsons, Riley Perez, Mya Rimrod, Anya Ruzicka, Jackson Ruzicka, Everett Schmitt, Addison Tracey, Isabelle Vance, Nick Williams and Alex Wright.

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