SCHUYLKILL - Fifty parents and relatives watched as 105 students of the Schuylkill Elementary School officially graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program Thursday morning.

Sponsored by the Schuylkill Township Police Department, Officer Robert Gray spent 17 weeks teaching children enrolled in the program about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and violence.

Gray, speaking to the graduates in the all-purpose room of the school, said, "You have come a long way over the past 17 weeks and you've learned a lot. If you remember one thing from this program, it is to always remember to say no to drugs and yes to life."

In attendance at the ceremony were Schuylkill Township Police Chief James Fetterman, Schuylkill Elementary School Principal Alex Stefanelli, and Phoenixville Area School District Superintendent David Noyes

Stefanelli spoke of the DARE symbol and how it should serve as a reminder to the children.

"The DARE symbol is a triangle, with school on the left side, police on the right side, and the base is parents," he said. "With your teachers, the police, and your parents, you have three resources to turn to when faced with any decisions. Try to apply everything that has been taught to you. You are the driver and should now follow the path that has been provided for you."

The children then lined up to receive DARE certificates from their teachers, Mrs. Chapman, Mrs. Illig, Mr. Moyer, and Ms. Parsons and Officer Gray.

In his closing remarks, Gray read a verse given to him by his mother, Dolores Gray, entitled "Attitude," by Charles Swindell.

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life," said Gray. "Attitude, to me, is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break an organization, a school, a home.

"The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day, regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me, and 90 percent how I react to it, and so it is with you."

After the graduation, Police Chief Jim Fetterman spoke of his appreciation of Gray's efforts.

"This is a great program and Officer Gray really works well with the children," he said. "He spends a lot of time with them and they've been very responsive to what he's taught them."

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