D.A. Early: ‘I don’t like Royalston’s D.A.R.E. program’

  • Several of the guest speakers at the recent Royalston Community School D.A.R.E. graduation reminded students they were surrounded by family, friends, and members of the school and greater community, all of whom are willing to guide them in making wise decisions. Surrounding students here are (l-r) Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) aide Elena Cohen; fifth grade teacher Marisa Coviello; Royalston Police Department Patrol Sergeant and Royalston Selectman Roland G. Hamel; Royalston Selectwoman Deb D’Amico; Royalston Police Department Patrol Officer and D.A.R.E. Instructor Sherry A. Miner (seated); School Principal Beth Craven; Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.; Representative Susannah M. Whipps (U-Athol); Royalston Police Chief Curtis A. Deveneau (kneeling); Athol-Royalston Regional School District Darcy Fernandes; and Royalston Police Patrol Officers Paul Pothier and Keith Swan. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/MARY C. BARCLAY

  • Several of the guest speakers at the recent Royalston Community School D.A.R.E. graduation reminded students they were surrounded by family, friends, and members of the school and greater community, all of whom are willing to guide them in making wise decisions. Surrounding students here are (l-r) Senator Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) aide Elena Cohen; fifth grade teacher Marisa Coviello; Royalston Police Department Patrol Sergeant and Royalston Selectman Roland G. Hamel; Royalston Selectwoman Deb D’Amico; Royalston Police Department Patrol Officer and D.A.R.E. Instructor Sherry A. Miner (seated); School Principal Beth Craven; Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.; Representative Susannah M. Whipps (U-Athol); Royalston Police Chief Curtis A. Deveneau (kneeling); Athol-Royalston Regional School District Darcy Fernandes; and Royalston Police Patrol Officers Paul Pothier and Keith Swan. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/MARY C. BARCLAY

  • Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early (D. Worcester), a frequent guest speaker at Royalston Community School’s annual D.A.R.E. graduation, stunned the audience with his opening remarks last Friday. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/MARY C. BARCLAY

  • Royalston Police Patrol Officer Sherry A. Miner conducted the annual D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) graduation ceremony recently for 17 Royalston Community School fifth graders. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/MARY C. BARCLAY

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 4/16/2019 9:50:21 PM

ROYALSTON – Stunned silence and perplexed looks filled the Royalston Community School (R.C.S.) cafetorium last Friday when Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early divulged, at the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) graduation, no less, that “I don’t like Royalston’s D.A.R.E. program.” It was definitely not an expected opening line from an honored guest speakers.

D.A. Early quickly redeemed himself when he enthusiastically added, “I LOVE Royalston’s D.A.R.E. program!”

The long-time supporter and frequent guest speaker at Royalston’s annual D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony continued with brief comments regarding how the hardest job of those in the law enforcement community is having to be with a family that is in suffering, for example, dealing with a child who died as a result of poor decision making. He assured the students that using the D.A.R.E. decision-making model would reduce the frequency of those difficult situations.

Royalston Police Patrol Officer Sherry A. Miner, a certified D.A.R.E. instructor, began her 13th graduation ceremony with a warm welcome and the Pledge of Allegiance. Principal Beth Craven was the first of several guest speakers, and expressed her thanks to both Officer Miner and the 17 students for giving the 10-week program, “your best effort.”

She continued with encouragement to, “…remember how you feel right now, surrounded by all of these people who love, support, and care for you. As you grow older, and are presented with some situations where you need to make a hard choice, remember that it is going to take courage to make a good choice.”

Principal Craven expressed her belief that the acronym D.A.R.E.” and the word “dare” have a lot to do with each other. “The word itself means, having the courage to do something or to challenge someone to do something. From this day forward, I challenge each and every one of you to remember everything you’ve learned in the past few months. I challenge you to have the courage to pass along what you learned from this program, lead by example, and never forget the support you have in your R.C.S. family.”

Athol-Royalston Regional School District (A.R.R.S.D.) Superintendent Darcy Fernandes congratulated the 17 students – five from Royalston, 11 from Athol, and one from Winchendon – on their successful completion of the D.A.R.E. program, and also mentioned their larger school community, which will soon be one of 57 schools in the Commonwealth being recognized for their performance on the M.C.A.S. (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) tests.

Superintendent Fernandes said people often wonder how and why the Royalston Community School does so well. She went on to say it’s programs like D.A.R.E. and the support from family, friends, and the community that make the difference.

State Representative Susannah M. Whipps. (Unenrolled. Athol), a member of the Joint Committee of Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Recovery, as well as R.C.S. D.A.R.E. graduation regular, brought greetings and regrets from other legislators who were unable to attend, including State Senators Anne Gobi (D. Spencer), and Jo Comerford (D. Northampton). She spoke of the fact Massachusetts is a “commonwealth,” and that means we all work towards the greater good.

Representative Whipps, who had earlier mentioned that Massachusetts is one of four Commonwealths in the United States, threw out the question, “What are the other three states?”

Members of the audience quickly and accurately identified the other three (which readers of this article will have to look up, if they’re not sure!) She also informed graduates they would be receiving citations from the State House at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Royalston’s Police Chief Curtis A. Deveneau, whose own two sons graduated from Royalston’s D.A.R.E. program, congratulated the students on their completion of the program. He offered greetings from newly-appointed Athol Police Chief Craig Lundgren, whom he promised would be on hand at next year’s R.C.S. D.A.R.E. graduation.

Selectwoman Deb D’Amico, with four plus decades of teaching and school administration under her belt, brought greetings and letters of commendation from the Town of Royalston’s Select Board. She expressed her pride, and that of the Town of Royalston’s, in the accomplishments of the students she identified, “…as our future.”

Each graduate wrote an essay as the final project for their D.A.R.E. course. Officer Sherry announced the four students who submitted exemplary essays. Evelyn Robinson earned an honorable mention; Makalya Waxlax and Jaiden Mikels, were runners up. Winning essayist Autumn Knetchel read her essay before the crowd, rolling like an experienced professional public speaker when the microphone gave her some difficulty. Each of the four was presented with a medal for their entry.

Their D.A.R.E. classmates included Rylee Boudreau, Lillian Fitzpatrick, Daegan Hanks, Madilyn Hermes, Samuel Kane, Joseph Morris, Karim Nur, Maximus Parsons, Logan Pearson, Alec Richard, Keegan Ward, Madalynn Warner, and Waylan Watts.

Students received framed diplomas from Officer Sherry, letters of congratulations from the Royalston Select Board, and commendation citations from Royalston’s legislators. Graduates shook the hands of school administrators, Royalston officials, D.A. Early, and members of the Royalston Police Department, then took their places on the stage so proud family members and friends could take group photographs.

During the photographs, Senator Comerford’s aide Elena Cohen arrived, and requested a moment with the students. She explained the Senator had another important engagement, but wanted to express her congratulations and pride in the students on the completion of such an important program.

Officer Sherry wrapped up the graduation extending thanks to Principal Craven, fifth grade Teacher Marisa Coviello, paraprofessional Claire Morris, and school secretary Marie Lajoie for allowing her to present the D.A.R.E. program, and for supporting her efforts as instructor, and those of the students. She also reminded this group of grads, as she has done in the past, “It’s NOT all about YOU! When you make poor decisions, you hurt all of the people around you.”

A reception for the graduates and their guests followed, with punch, and a marbled cake decorated with the Royalston Police Department patch, and the D.A.R.E. logo. When the reception concluded, Brian Snell’s sixth grade class also enjoyed cake and punch before breaking down and cleaning up after the program. On her way out, Officer Sherry stopped to thank them for their extremely helpful contributions of time and energy.

The Royalston Community School fifth grade D.A.R.E. program is the result of an excellent working relationship between school, police, and families. It is supported in concept by the A.R.R.S.D. School Committee, logistics support from R.C.S., tax payer dollars, as well as annual funding from the Royalston Police Association and donations of “drug money” from the office of Attorney General Joseph D. Early, Jr. The program is considered so useful in teaching wise decision-making skills, the D.A.R.E. curriculum was expanded this year to include age-appropriate materials in grades K-6.

Individuals, groups and businesses are invited to support RCS’s D.A.R.E. program through the Royalston Police Association, P.O. Box RPD, Royalston, MA 01368


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