SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJBK) - Police Officer Leslie Heisler knows pretty much everybody at Shelby Junior High, where she's the D.A.R.E. officer for the Shelby Township Police Department. She says the program that launched 35 years ago to try to keep kids off drugs is now different. And better.
"We now facilitate conversations with the kids about positive decision making and good life choices and peer pressure and bullying and all of those things that they encounter at school, at home and in their communities - not just about drugs. But it all just comes together to help them make better life choices," she says.
Years ago, criticism of the D.A.R.E. program's results led to many communities dropping it, but many have brought back the new, re-vamped curriculum. In Shelby Township they say it's been a big success, and now one of their own students has been named to the National Youth Advocacy Board, ninth grader Jack Droelle.
"It was super excited and like ready to motivate others to stay on the right track and stay out of drugs and peer pressure, so I was super excited and also grateful for the opportunity," he says.
"He's got leadership. His peers look up to him, adults talk to him and look to him for information. He'd just be a great addition," Officer Leslie says.
An outstanding student and speaker, Officer Leslie nominated Jack to represent Michigan at the national board. It's an opportunity to travel to learn about other programs and to speak to sixth graders throughout Shelby Township.
"I've never personally been offered something like that, drugs or vaping marijuana, but I've seen it. I've seen it happen in the bathrooms, in the hallways, just outside of school in the community, anywhere. So it's definitely relevant with junior high and high school, so the fact you're learning it in sixth grade is really helpful," he says.
It's important peer outreach that teachers say will help students make safe, healthy decisions as they transition from grade school to junior high and beyond.
"We can only say it so many times. If they hear it from a peer it means more," says Derek Smith, a teacher at Shelby Junior High. "Shelby, just like any other school, is just part of normal society and it's just good for kids to have an outreach program they can either learn from our reach out to in a time of need."
As for Jack, he's excited to make a difference here in Shelby Township and well beyond as part of the national board.
"It's like the students' voice in the D.A.R.E. program, because, obviously the adults fill the curriculum and the material they teach in the D.A.R.E. program, and the students need to have a voice because they're the ones experiencing it," Droelle says.
"He's going to be our regional voice in a national, international forum; D.A.R.E.'s taught in 40 countries," Officer Leslie says. "So he's really part of a board with international reach."