A Lakewood BlueClaw told Lakehurst fifth graders to make the right life choices at their DARE graduation Wednesday.
The students, taught by Lakehurst Police Department officer Iain James, recently completed the nine week program and were presented with certificates during a graduation ceremony.
"It's hard to tell your friends 'no,'" said the BlueClaw's first baseman Christopher Duffy. But sometimes, that is what children and teens must say to keep out of trouble, he told the two fifth grade classes at the borough's elementary school.
The DARE program encourages students to define, assess, respond and evaluate any difficult situations involving drugs, alcohol, peer pressure and bullying.
"This has been a great opportunity for me," said James, who is in his first year of teaching the program. "I think DARE is a wonderful program and it stays with you forever."
Students were asked to complete an essay about what they learned during the DARE program — two were selected to read their work aloud.
Student Shawna said that she learned the dangers of drugs and alcohol and promised to stay away from each. The other, Theresa, recalled being bullied and used the DARE model to seek help.
"I'm very thankful that we have police officers in our community who do this job," said Principal Carmen Davis.
Last year, Dickie Noles, a relief pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies during their 1980 championship run, spoke with DARE graduates at the elementary school.