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South Hills

D.A.R.E. program at McClellan Elementary School ends

| Friday, June 1, 2018, 11:00 p.m.
McClellan Elementary fifth grader Josie Manculich is greeted by Pleasant Hills deputy police Chief Sean Greene, as Mayor William Trimbath, looks on, during the school's D.A.R.E. graduation on Friday, June 1, 2018.
Stephanie Hacke | for the South Hills Record
McClellan Elementary fifth grader Josie Manculich is greeted by Pleasant Hills deputy police Chief Sean Greene, as Mayor William Trimbath, looks on, during the school's D.A.R.E. graduation on Friday, June 1, 2018.
McClellan Elementary fifth grader Lily Hurst, 10, is greeted by Pleasant Hills deputy police Chief Sean Greene, as Mayor William Trimbath, looks on, during the school's D.A.R.E. graduation on Friday, June 1, 2018.
Stephanie Hacke | for the South Hills Record
McClellan Elementary fifth grader Lily Hurst, 10, is greeted by Pleasant Hills deputy police Chief Sean Greene, as Mayor William Trimbath, looks on, during the school's D.A.R.E. graduation on Friday, June 1, 2018.
Pleasant Hills Mayor William Trimbath shakes the hand of a fifth grade student at Pleasant Hills Middle School during the D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony on Friday, June 1, 2018.
Stephanie Hacke | for the South Hills Record
Pleasant Hills Mayor William Trimbath shakes the hand of a fifth grade student at Pleasant Hills Middle School during the D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony on Friday, June 1, 2018.
Cara Vereb, a fifth grader at McClellan Elementary, greets Pleasant Hills Mayor William Trimbath, during the school's D.A.R.E. graduation on Friday, June 1, 2018.
Stephanie Hacke | for the South Hills Record
Cara Vereb, a fifth grader at McClellan Elementary, greets Pleasant Hills Mayor William Trimbath, during the school's D.A.R.E. graduation on Friday, June 1, 2018.

Shepherd Turk hopes he always makes the right choices in life — and he credits the McClellan Elementary School D.A.R.E. program with giving him all of the tools to do just that.

“It helps prepare us for life, because, without D.A.R.E. we could make some really decisions,” the 11-year-old says.

Fifth-graders at McClellan Elementary School graduated from the school's D.A.R.E. program June 1. It was the 24th — and final — D.A.R.E. graduation at the school.

Next year, as the West Jefferson Hills School District goes through a redistricting, McClellan will become a kindergarten through second-grade school. All third- through fifth-graders in the district will attend Jefferson Elementary.

Pleasant Hills police officers teach a 10-week D.A.R.E. program to fifth-graders at McClellan and sixth-graders at Pleasant Hills Middle School. For younger kids, they teach the basics, like how to call 911.

Pleasant Hills police and the West Jefferson Hills School District, which is in the process of adding three school police officers, will continue to offer the D.A.R.E. program, leaders say. They're still working out how that will be structured. Superintendent Michael Ghilani said the district plans to train its school police officers in the D.A.R.E. program so it can be offered at Jefferson Elementary.

Fifth-grade graduation brings together the community, from the Pleasant Hills Police Department to Pleasant Hills Fire Company to Baldwin EMS and members of borough council and the mayor to recognize students accomplishments.

“It's a culmination of everything they've learned and to recognize them for what they learned,” said Pleasant Hills school resource officer Ronald Porupsky, who has been the D.A.R.E. officer for two years.

“In today's society, it's very hard to be a child. When you put your child to bed at night you figure they're safe. Not necessarily,” Porupsky said. “There's the internet, social media.”

Porupsky teaches the students the “D.A.R.E. decision-making model” where they're asked to define, assess, respond and evaluate every decision they make.

He reminds the students to always be the best version of themselves they can be.

“As you go through life, you're writing your resume and what you do now will be brought back up in the future,” Shepherd said, quoting what he learned through the DARE program.

From social media use to communication skills to anti-bullying, Porupsky teaches it all.

“I'm hoping my voice is in the back of their heads and they think before they act,” he said.

Alison Chalovich, 11, said D.A.R.E. has helped her make better decisions.

She went through a long list of what she's learned, from the dangers of alcohol and smoking to resistance strategies to way to remain calm and relieve stress.

“It impacts you a lot,” she said. Principal Justin Liberatore, after watching the fifth graders graduate from the D.A.R.E. program, talked about its benefits. Realizing this was the final fifth-grade class at McClellan, he smiled and said, “I'm going to miss the older kids next year.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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