There is no discounting the value of feeling good about yourself, according to a D.A.R.E. officer who forged a unique bond with his students in just his first year at the school.
Deputy Charlie Herwig, D.A.R.E. officer at Robertsville Elementary School, wanted to show his students the value of doing something for others.
His role in the school might be to educate youngsters about the benefits of living drug free lives, but he also wanted to show them the value of community service.
When Herwig asked his students to consider launching a campaign to help homeless veterans live more comfortable lives, he had no idea how seriously they would take his suggestion.
Speaking at the Dec. 18 Meramec Valley School Board meeting, where the Robertsville D.A.R.E. students were recognized, Herwig said the project had been a great experience for him and the students.
“Last year was my first year as D.A.R.E. officer,” Herwig said. “I am a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom so I was aware that veterans have to pay for their own personal items. I decided to ask students to enter a competition to collect items for homeless vets.”
This year, 4,000 items were collected by students in 19 schools, double the number collected last year. Robertsville Elementary won the competition collecting the most items per kid.
“One thing that really surprised me, is the students made their own competition out of this competition by having all grades compete to be the top in the school,” Herwig said.
The D.A.R.E. officer also said the Robertsville Elementary competition was the most well-behaved he had ever seen as kids went out of their way to help someone other than themselves.
Herwig presented students with a school picture of themselves delivering the items and a plaque recognizing them as competition winners.
Two students who accompanied Herwig to the school board meeting, Briana Hildebrand and Slade Braiser, commented on the project.
“We got our friends to make posters of the items needed and hang them in the halls and classrooms,” Briana said. “Kindergarten through fifth grade students took part. We collected and counted every morning. Out of 19 schools, we won with 1,500 items for our school. All the schools together collected 4,000 items.”
Slade said one of the highlights of the competition was getting to deliver some of the items and meeting veterans.
“We met five veterans,” Slade said “One gentleman showed the class his boot camp yearbook. We also got to watch the men at VFW hall present a check to the D.A.R.E. Program.”
The National Guard men also talked about development of trucks, he said.
“We got to go inside the trucks and we thanked the men,” Slade said.
Herwig told school board members that the field trip to the St. Clair National Guard armory was a plus for the students and gave the veterans an opportunity to talk about their experiences.
“They (the veterans) really bonded with the kids,” Herwig said.