D.A.R.E. instructors from the Ormond Beach Police Department know how to use humor to relate to fifth graders, so they can teach them important lessons about alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
Sometimes, the best way to teach a 10-year-old important lessons is with a fart joke.
And there are few more capable police officers in the Ormond Beach Police Department to teach those lessons to fifth graders than officer Lloyd Cornelius and his partner Greg Stokes.
“When I’m in class with these kids, I’m doing a standup routine,” said Cornelius, who teaches classes for the D.A.R.E. program put on by the OBPD. “I’m booger jokes and fart jokes. You have to keep them happy. I goof around. I play around. … And if you can get the information to them, using a little bit of comedy, using a little bit of humor, relating to them, they get the message.”
The goal of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, better known as the D.A.R.E. program, is to teach kids a decision making model to avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.
Using workbooks, which come out of the program’s $5,000 budget, students are taught to define the problem, evaluate the problem and find healthy and wise solutions to the problem.
Those solutions can come from quoting health facts to evaluating the foundation of positive friendships.
But in addition to educating the students, a large part of the program, Cornelius says, is breakdowning some of the stereotypes students may have about police officers.
“What do kids usually equate police officers with?” Cornelius said. “Trouble. Someone’s going to jail. Something’s happening. The last contact they had with a police officer was: mom got arrested, mom got a ticket, dad got arrested, dad got a ticket.”
But after a few classes, those initial stereotypes are wiped away and the students begin to see the officers as people. That, Cornelius says, is when they can really make an impact.
“To me, this is a core program,” he said. “This is core to the city. The city needs to keep it going. For the longest time, the Volusia County schools were purchasing the books for us, which cost us $1 a piece. They don’t purchase anything for us now. But they do let us in their schools.”
It’s the presence of a police officer “who’s been there, done that, and knows what’s going on,” Cornelius says, that makes the program so effective.
“I get to get them before the jello is hard,” he said. “And I can get all the information in there, as much as I can. If I spend 20 years teaching D.A.R.E., and I help one kid, that’s money well spent.”