Teachers, school administrators, family and friends filled the gym at Highland Middle School on Wednesday to celebrate 243 elementary school fifth-graders from Granger, Hinckley and Sharon townships and their accomplishments at the annual D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony.
While a slideshow from the school year played in the background, Medina County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sharon Centner, Highland’s D.A.R.E. officer, gave opening remarks and expressed how proud she was of the students. It was the first time the Class of 2026 was together in the same place.
D.A.R.E. graduation is specifically for students who have completed a 14-week curriculum course in Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
The students worked with Centner to learn about the negative effects of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use. Vaping, peer pressure and online safety also were topics of discussion.
While there is no test or quiz, there is an essay that each student must write that shares what they learned from the program and how the information will help them make good decisions. This year’s prompt was “A letter to your future self,” which will be returned to the students when they reach ninth grade.
Winners of the essay contest were:
- First place: Colin Keeley, Granger Elementary School
- Second place: Allie Miller, Sharon Elementary School
- Third place: Kyle LeMassena, Hinckley Elementary School
- Runners Up: Annie Barnett, Samantha Budd, Carson Cope, Nick Dobkowski, Holly Gale, Ally Gryskiewicz and Karli Schneider.
Keeley wrote that he hoped he remembered what he learned in fifth grade. He also hopes that his future self will resist peer pressure, make good decisions and be a good and kind person.
Keeley concluded his essay by saying, “Be like your dad.”
The evening also included a performance of “I Will DARE” by all 243 students. District music teachers Michael McClintock, Tom Mundell and Lindsay Bond conducted the song.
Each student received a certificate, goodie bag, Dilly Bar from Dairy Queen in Medina, and a D.A.R.E. graduation T-shirt provided by Highland’s Elementary PTO.