GOWANDA - Gowanda Central School held its eighth DARE graduation ceremony in the Gowanda High School auditorium, decorated with the colors red, black and white. DARE Officer Jen Alessi, Superintendent Charles Rinaldi and GMS Principal Dave Smith opened the ceremony with thanks to the sponsors, parents and teachers for making the program possible. DARE Officer Alessi spoke about how the program bonds kids with police officers and the importance of that relationship throughout their years of school and beyond. The program has evolved into not only drug prevention but violence prevention and bullying and learning to make good choices.
Guests included former BOE President Ann Martindale, BOE Vice President Carol Paskuly, Gowanda former deputy mayor Carol Shiebley, GPD Chief Joe Alessi, Joan Goodemote and Guidance Counselor Jane LaFontaine.
Special guest speakers were the Honorable Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard and Senator Catharine Young. Both spoke about the importance of making good choices, staying in school and how important it is to remember what they learned in the DARE program. Sheriff Howard read a poem by Charles Osgood titled " Pretty Good" and spoke of his years at GCS as well as his mother being a teacher at GCS. Senator Young spoke about helping by being good citizens and making good choices.
Essay winners with Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, Senator Catharine Young and SRO Alessi.
The Gowanda Middle School fifth-graders were recognized for their hard work in DARE. Each student received a DARE tee shirt and a Certificate of Accomplishment.
Special awards were given. One student from each of the fifth grade classes was chosen as the essay winner.
Winning essays were shared with the audience. They each received a medal and a mini version of the DARE mascot Daren in his graduation cap.
Essay winners included Brianna Gonzalez, MaryElizabeth Gould, Delaney Zarnoch, Kristine Twoguns, Sienna Jones and Samantha Kinnaird.
One student from each of the fifth-grade classes was chosen as a first runner-up. They each received a medal.
There were also six first runner-up award winners: Mikayla Williams, Ashynn Schultz, Kylie Russell, Holana Lone, Taylor Ribblet and Justin Kohn.
Best class overall was Mrs. Stone's class. Each student as well as Mrs. Stone received a prize. Best DARE box winners were Michael Bondzich, Gabby VanEtten and Kristine Twoguns.
Before GMS Principal Dave Smith closed the ceremony, a special recognition was given for their dedication to the GCS students. SRO Alessi recognized Paskuly (who did not seek re-election) for her time served on the Gowanda Board of Education and to LaFontaine (who was retiring) for her work with the children of the Gowanda Middle School.