NORTH MYRTLE BEACH (WMBF) - More than 350 fifth graders at North Myrtle Beach Intermediate School will graduate from the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program Friday. They say they are trying to reach students early before they are bombarded with even more pressures at the middle and high school levels.
Principal Trevor Strawderman at North Myrtle Beach High School says it is a different world for many of his students these days.
"I think at the high school level pressures have become more intense, more widespread," Strawderman said. "We don't see it with just a certain element of students anymore."
Senor Kody Rowles agreed: "When you talk about drugs here, it's around. There's definitely talk around."
DARE officials say the talk is not just in the high schools. Fifth grader Xavier Clarida says even at the intermediate level kids are hearing about drugs. Classmate Brynn Strawderman agrees.
"Kids in the middle school even use drugs," she said. "I've got friends in the sixth grade who will go to the girls bathroom and get offered cigarettes."
"The earlier we can get to these kids the better," Strawderman said. "When we're teaching about drugs at the high school level, we're too late."
They say the DARE program is about teaching kids how to make good decisions and that decisions have consequences.
"After you do drugs or anything bad you could have social consequences, legal consequences, or health consequences," Brynn Strawderman explained. She says the social consequences are what worry her the most.
DARE Officer Julie Smith says the fear of gossip and being ostracized hits home.
"They understand social consequences much easier than the legal or health because those are long term that they cant quite grasp it," she explained. "But they can grasp those social consequences real easy."
Smith says showing the kids the effects of drugs at a young age and taking away some of the mystery helps to prepare them to stand up to peer pressure.
"They're curious about it. They want to know what it might look like. Not only would they think about doing it because they want to show off or be cool, but they're curious about it," Smith said. "So I try to make them understand that these are the consequences of it, this is what it looks like. So, is it worth the consequences of it?"
Senior Kody Rowles thinks fifth grade is a great time to start bringing up the subject of self esteem and peer pressure.
"They have to start thinking about it because when it presents itself in front of them they have to learn to turn it down," Kody said.
Another big concern is the trend towards misusing prescription drugs.
"I think with the availability of prescription medicine, that's becoming a larger concern," Strawderman said.
"The prescription drugs are available to the kids," Smith said. "A lot of the stuff is in grandma or mom's medicine cabinet where they have ready access to it."
They say what is so concerning is that many students have the misperception that somehow prescription drugs are less dangerous or less taboo because they are prescribed by a doctor, even if it was not prescribed for them.
The DARE program is in its 19th year in North Myrtle Beach. Smith says the program is so important to the city that they place their officer outside the city limits in the intermediate school so that they can make sure they reach students with the tools to make wise decisions.