Silverthorne elementary student’s DARE essay wins first place statewide |

Silverthorne elementary student’s DARE essay wins first place statewide

Silverthorne Elementary student Benji Smith was awarded first place across the state for his DARE essay. Smith's fifth-grade class participated in the DARE program last year, under the instruction of Silverthorne police.
Courtesy of Catherine Smith |

Fifth grader Benji Smith was thrilled when he heard the good news in June. The Silverthorne Elementary student’s DARE essay was chosen for first place statewide.

“My officers are so proud of Benji and the job he did with his essay. To be chosen as the number one DARE essay for the state of Colorado is quite the accomplishment,” Silverthorne police chief Mark Hanschmidt said. “I am also proud of Misty and Theresa for the job they do with the kids at Silverthorne Elementary school and the DARE program.”

Smith’s class of 40 students participated in the program this year, bringing in police officers every week to talk about bullying, peer pressure and drug use. This year, officers also walked students through a mock crime scene as part of the program.

Silverthorne police detective Theresa Barger said that she and Sgt. Misty Higby often stayed past the allotted hour, answering questions from curious students.

“It used to be all about drugs. Now, we’re focusing on the peer pressure aspect, the stress, especially when they’re going into middle school,” Barger said.

“Benji is a great kid, he is a very intelligent kid. It really shows in his work,” she added. “He was so adamant that he worked really hard on this. We were just blown away at how well it was written.”

Smith said that her and Sgt. Misty Higby’s dedication to the program made the classes engaging and entertaining. He added that the program was focused on how he would respond to certain situations.

“It was really intriguing because you felt like they were talking directly to you and not the whole classroom,” he said. “It was really fun after all, that’s why I liked it so much and put a lot of work into my essay.”

He worked for two weeks to write the essay, explaining the value of the class and providing examples of how he would respond to specific scenarios. Benji’s mother, Catherine Smith, praised Silverthorne police for continuing the DARE program.

“Those officers care so deeply that the kids feel taken care of when they learn these things. They know they have someone there to help support them if and when these situations arise,” she said. “It is one of the most meaningful things they take with them as they go into middle school, where a lot of these things start.”

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