Before wrapping up the school year Tuesday, more than 30 fifth-graders at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School had a graduation for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

Before wrapping up the school year Tuesday, more than 30 fifth-graders at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School had a graduation for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

“This is a big day for our fifth-graders,” said Principal Amanda Brimer.

Most of the students at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School will have to return today for their final day of classes for the 2017-2018 school year. But Brimer said fifth-graders concluded the school year and their time at the elementary school with Tuesday's ceremony.

The D.A.R.E. program was taught to the students in two fifth-grade classes by Deputy Connie Anderson of the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office.

She visited the students once a week over a 10-week period.

Anderson, a longtime D.A.R.E. instructor, said the program taught the students “lessons that you can use to make good choices.”

Sheriff Andy Dedeke said the D.A.R.E. decision-making model will be helpful for more than just resisting drugs.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt had been scheduled to be the guest speaker for the graduation ceremony. But Schmidt was unable to make it to the graduation because of a Kansas Supreme Court hearing regarding state funding for schools.

David Burlew filled in as the guest speaker. Burlew works for the Kansas Attorney General's Office and serves as the state coordinator for the D.A.R.E. program.

“Drugs destroy lives,” he said. “Drugs will kill you.”

Burlew, who previously worked for the FBI, recounted a case he worked on in which a drug dealer was killed.

“This guy lost his life over stinking drugs,” Burlew said.

Burlew asked the fifth-graders not to use marijuana even if the drug is legalized in Kansas.

Burlew said he has interviewed hundreds of people who were involved in drugs. He said nine out of every 10 of them said they started using drugs by smoking marijuana.

As part of their D.A.R.E. classes, the fifth-graders were asked to write essays. Two students, Xanthe Hattok and Austin Green, were asked to read their essays during Tuesday's ceremony.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Brimer presented various end of the year awards to the members of the fifth-grade classes.

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