Darren Doyle, story and photos:
The annual D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony was held at the Edmonson County 5/6 Center this morning where 148 5th grade students accepted their certificates for completion of the program, which is administered by the Edmonson County Sheriff's Office and Edmonson County Community Education.
While some students received prizes and the large group of students, parents, and faculty enjoyed a dance routine from the lion mascot "Daren," the star of today's show was Edmonson County Sheriff K-9 unit Tango, who performed a number of tricks and maneuvers. However, most all students would agree that seeing Principal Rex Booth getting attacked by Tango was the highlight of the day.
Booth agreed to wear a protective sleeve while Tango was ordered to attack him. Tango was able to very aggressively remove the sleeve from Booth in about 12 seconds, which appeared as though it was plenty of time for Booth to get acquainted with the highly trained K-9 unit.
Deputy Jordan Jones, who not only serves as the school's D.A.R.E. instructor, but is also Tango's certified handler for the Sheriff's Office, said this year's program was highlighted by the students' enthusiasm.
"The kids made it so much more exciting," he said. "They were always so eager to participate and willing to learn. They definitely made it even better for me, and this is something I really enjoy. They obviously love seeing Tango and we were happy to have him here today as a special treat."
Community Education Director Lisa Whobrey said the working partnership between the Sheriff's Office, the school, and local sponsors make the program a success.
"The biggest impact we see with students is that this program gives them confidence," she said. "Deputy Jones does a wonderful job with our students. He doesn't just instruct the kids, he bonds with them."
Several community members were assembled as a panel in support for the local program today, which included: Principal Rex Booth, Officer Tamara Jupin from Brownsville PD, Chief Jeff Jewell from Brownsville PD, Sheriff Shane Doyle, State Farm Agent Josh Roney, Judge Executive Wil Cannon, Deputies Wally Ritter and Jeremy Hodges, along with Melissa Newkirk from the Edmonson County Sheriff's Office.
Deputy Devin Lindsey also agreed to play another one of Tango's victims in the K-9 presentation.
Principal Booth said having the program continue at the 5/6 is "extraordinary."
"This goes far beyond our standard classroom content," he said. "This is real-life material we're confident that will stick with our students for a lifetime. Deputy Jones and the Sheriff's Office have been outstanding to work with because they go above and beyond. Today's program was so much more than handing out certificates. You can tell that Deputy Jones treats this as so much more than just as part of his job."
Funding for the program's officer is secured by KY-ASAP, or Agency for Substance Abuse Policy. This year's sponsors were: Buttram Farms, St. John's Thrift Store, Lindsey's Auto Parts, Josh Roney State Farm, and Edmonson Co. PVA Kyle White.