Cabarrus

Cabarrus police officer honored for work with D.A.R.E. program

Keith Drake, in his office at Bethel Elementary School, stands beside the plaque naming him North Carolina D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year. “It's humbling,” Drake says of his recognition.
Keith Drake, in his office at Bethel Elementary School, stands beside the plaque naming him North Carolina D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year. “It's humbling,” Drake says of his recognition. MARCIA MORRIS

If you have a student who completed the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, taught in Cabarrus County elementary schools through the Sheriff’s Department in the past five years, there’s a good chance your student knows Officer Keith Drake, until recently one of the only two D.A.R.E. officers in the county.

And if your student had Drake, you can boast that he or she learned from the best, because earlier this year Drake was named D.A.R.E. Officer of the Year by the N.C. D.A.R.E. Officers Association at their conference in Atlantic Beach.

Drake says the award was a “big, pleasant surprise.” He had nominated Sheriff Brad Riley for Glenn Mowery Executive of the Year because of Riley’s support for the D.A.R.E. program and for allowing Drake to work on some special projects, so Drake wasn’t surprised to see his boss and co-workers in attendance at the banquet. But he was surprised to also be recognized, even though Drake’s wife had known about his award for months.

It’s not hard to see why Drake is an excellent D.A.R.E. officer. The program, he explains, has changed since its creation in 1983. Then it was about staying away from gangs and drugs. Now, he says, it’s about empowering students to make the wise decisions.

Drake always wanted to be a officer. His goal is to change hearts and minds before they make those bad decisions. And he recognizes that what he teaches kids at school needs to be reinforced at home, so he challenges his students to begin conversations with their parents. He suggested they look up the lyrics to the songs they listen to, and talk about them with their parents.

“Fifth-graders,” Drake said, “know more than parents think.”

But sometimes, they know the wrong thing, and parents can help students sort out what’s good and what’s bad for them.

“I love seeing the light bulb come on,” Drake said.

Beginning this school year, there is a school resource and D.A.R.E. officer at every elementary school in the county, so Drake is at Bethel Elementary in Midland all the time. Why Bethel? He’s lived in Midland his entire life, he attended the old Bethel Elementary School, and his children will attend the new school. “Midland’s my home,” he said.

Now Drake gets to spend time with elementary students of all ages, and he’s taken on a new role for the D.A.R.E. program: fundraiser. Creating new D.A.R.E. officers and giving experienced officers the tools they need takes training, and that costs money, Drake said.

He’s helping to spearhead two big upcoming events: a carnival in April and a bass fishing tournament at Badin Lake in May.

Drake says he never anticipated that he would become a fundraiser for the D.A.R.E. program, but he’ll do whatever is necessary to help kids. “I try to keep in mind what it’s for.”

Marcia Morris is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marcia? Email her at EasternCabarrusWriter@gmail.com

Learn more:

The N.C. D.A.R.E. Officers Association second annual Carnival for the Kids, with rides, games, food and fun, will take place in the Rug & Home Outlet parking lot on Cloverleaf Parkway, in Kannapolis, April 21-26. The association’s second annual Dare to Fish bass tournament, with a $1,000 grand prize, takes place at Badin Lake on May 2. For information on these events, go to www.ncdare.org or email Officer Keith Drake at kadrake@cabarruscounty.us.

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