September 08, 2008 —
I just got back to Kansas from the 21st D.A.R.E. International Training Conference, which was held last week in San Antonio and I'm excited to share some of my experiences with you.
I traveled to San Antonio for two reasons. The first was to learn from the other instructors and meet fellow officers from around the country. I also was there to talk about my role with the Five Moms and how other D.A.R.E. instructors can include lessons about over-the-counter medicine abuse in their classes.
It was my first time in San Antonio as I joined the thousands of others in attendance to learn more about teaching D.A.R.E. classes. I am teaching the D.A.R.E. program to one full class of students this fall, and we are already two weeks into the school year back at home. I'm really looking forward to take the lessons I learned from the other D.A.R.E. officers back to my own classes.
The week started off on a great note because I got to see my fellow Five Mom Hilda when I first landed in Texas. We didn't have much time together, but it was nice to catch up with one of the other moms. She picked me up at the airport, and we spent some time talking at her home. It's so rare for us to spend time together face-to-face, so that evening was truly very special.
At the conference, I spoke at two different sessions. At one point, I asked the attendees to raise their hands if they knew about cough medicine abuse in their community. Nearly every hand in the room went up. They had all come to my class so that they could learn the best ways to approach the topic in their own classes back home.
The best advice I could give them was that it was important to do more than just teach one day about it during their time with their students. I talked about my involvement at a town hall discussion on cough medicine abuse last April, and reminded them that it takes more than limited class time. I reminded them that as they continue to discuss the issue, it's their job to get into the community and raise awareness about dextromethorphan abuse.
You don't have to be a D.A.R.E. officer to help spread the word about cough medicine abuse. It is important to create awareness in your community, whoever you are. For example, as a parent, you could mention something to your neighbors at a local PTA meeting about the dangers of cough medicine abuse. With each friend you tell about this dangerous habit, you are helping us enlist more people in our fight against cough medicine abuse.
There were other memorable moments from this year's conference. One was a speech from Retro Bill, D.A.R.E.'s safety buddy. Retro Bill goes around the country and talks to students in the program. In his address to us, he managed to make every one of us both laugh and cry, and I know that the kids find him as engaging as we did.
Another moment that sticks out to me was the opening ceremonies, during which every state and country represented (and there were numerous international groups, as well) proudly displayed their flag. This presentation showed me just how far D.A.R.E. reaches. There are photos from the conference up at D.A.R.E.'s web site, and I encourage you to check them out.
It was a great experience to be at this year's conference, and I made many great contacts. More importantly, I hope I encouraged other officers to speak out to parents and take advantage of the tools D.A.R.E. has given them to make an impact in the community that they live in to stop cough medicine abuse. As I have in the last few years, I plan to continue my work with kids and their parents on the subject. And, with the help of my colleagues and teachers, we will continue to fight this habit in our community.