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Sgt. Mark Medford of the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office was recently appointed the Virginia State D.A.R.E. Coordinator.
D.A.R.E., which stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is a national organization that provides drug use prevention instruction to students at every level of schooling.
As the new statewide D.A.R.E. coordinator, Medford will use his decades of experience to provide training and resources to other D.A.R.E. programs, as well as manage an appropriation from the Virginia General Assembly that will go towards workbooks and materials for participating divisions.
Medford’s appointment makes the York-Poquoson Sherriff’s Office the new lead agency for Virginia D.A.R.E., which means the department will oversee the annual training academy, which draws participants from all over the state and as far away as Turks and Caicos.
As for why he feels so passionately about the D.A.R.E. program, Medford gets a sense of satisfaction knowing that he and other officers trained through D.A.R.E. around the state are strengthening the ties between students, families, communities and law enforcement agencies.
“This program is so successful in Virginia because of the collaboration with all the localities. It’s a multi-jurisdiction effort,” Medford said. “We just want to do what’s best for our children and help our young people make good choices.”
The program’s approach is evidence-based and tailored to meet the needs of different age groups.
Currently more than 70 jurisdictions in Virginia offer D.A.R.E. programs at some level, which reach more than 440,000 students each year. York County’s D.A.R.E. program is offered to students in grades 4 through 7.
Medford, who is also the chairman of the York County School Board, has devoted his career to D.A.R.E. since 1990, during which time he has seen the program grow and change to meet the needs of the county.
“[D.A.R.E.] has changed to keep up with the changes in the world we live in,” Medford said.
One such change the organization is now facing is a greater demand for D.A.R.E. training from the growing body of school resource officers stationed at elementary and middle schools.
With recent school crises receiving extensive national media attention, Virginia schools are beefing up police presence even in the lower grades. Many of the new officers are pursuing D.A.R.E. training in order to improve the services they can offer to their schools.