Cheers resonated throughout Norwalk Concert hall Wednesday morning as 1,056 fifth grade students from twelve Norwalk Schools were honored at the D.A.R.E. program's annual graduation ceremony.
D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is a curriculum that has been sponsored by the Norwalk Police Department since 1987.
"In the past 27 years, I can say that we probably impacted the lives of 25 to 30,000 young people in the city of Norwalk, helping them to develop the skills that they need in order to grow into young adults and live productive and safe lives," said Mayor Harry Rilling.
The program teaches students how to make wise decisions by avoiding peer pressure in dangerous situations.
"Traditionally it was about teaching children about the dangers of drugs," said Norwalk's D.A.R.E. coordinator Christopher Holms. "It has actually evolved now, we still do that, we talk about alcohol, we talk about tobacco, but what we do is we build up their self-confidence because the belief is, if you can build up a child's confidence, then they'll be better prepared to make better decisions, no matter what the problem is."
Each fifth grader was required to write a essay at the end of the curriculum. First place essay winner, Nicole Dilauro says there are some things she'll never forget.
"Stand up for yourself and believe in yourself because there's nothing to lose," said essay winner Nicole Dilauro, from Marvin Elementary School.
Holms says every year students surprise him on what they bring to the table.
"Fifth grade is such a magical grade because you're no longer really that elementary school kid, but you're also not the junior high school kid either. There's actually a lot of anxiety about going into junior high school, bullies, and what-not, so the reason that we do it in fifth grade is to prepare them for junior high."