A school-wide celebration was held last week in honor of Osage Middle School student Ashley Muhs, who won the 2018-19 state D.A.R.E. essay contest.
Muhs, who is a seventh-grader this fall, wasn't able to attend the state D.A.R.E. convention over the summer to read her winning essay aloud, so she did so during an assembly in the school gym on Aug. 26.
Muhs said she wanted to stress in her essay that "drugs can be really harmful to people."
But the D.A.R.E. program is not just about drug abuse prevention, according to Muhs.
"It's about dealing with stress and the everyday problems in life," she said.
All the sixth-graders at Osage participate in the D.A.R.E. program, which was designed to help educate students on the importance of making positive choices regarding substance abuse.
In recent years, the program has also grown to cover issues such as bullying.
Muhs said D.A.R.E. taught her how to deal with peer pressure "and how to use drugs that are OK to use," such as over-the-counter and prescription medication.
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Officer Rick LaGue, a veteran of the Osage Police Department, is the D.A.R.E. instructor for Osage. He was at the assembly for Muhs, along with many other local law enforcement officers.
He said in his 12 years at the D.A.R.E. instructor, this is the first time an Osage student has won the state essay contest.
All the students in D.A.R.E. write an essay as part of the program. Each year three of those students are chosen to read their essay aloud during D.A.R.E graduation in the spring.
Muhls was one of the three winners of the school-wide essay contest this spring, along with Ava Hennessey and Emersyn Blanco.
In her essay, Muhs wrote, "You can't always run from the things that scare you the most."
"That's why I have D.A.R.E. on my side," her essay stated.
Muhs wrote that D.A.R.E. taught her how to make good choices and deal with stress.
Some strategies she learned for coping with stress are to read a book or "do whatever makes you happy."