Eisenhower Elementary School fifth-grade-student Joseph Ragan received a fun surprise on Jan. 13. He was named winner of the month in the DARE program’s “I Make A Difference” contest. For earning that distinction, he received a special visit by Great Bend DARE Officer Jefferson Davis to his school, and he along with his classmates received a party and DARE T-shirts, which state “I Make A Difference.”
DARE stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education and is an anti-drug program that targets elementary children before they are likely to have used alcohol, tobacco and other harmful drugs. In Great Bend USD 428 schools it is organized and operated by the Great Bend Police Department.
For his DARE essay, Joseph wrote that he makes a difference “by always being nice to people.” Diagnosed with Down syndrome, Joseph has limited verbal communication ability, but that doesn’t prevent him from connecting with people. He is learning sign language and utilizes a communication program on an iPad to advance his communication abilities.
“Joseph is always fun and pleasant to be around, said Jessica Schmidt, who provides case management for him at Rosewood Services. “He enjoys engaging in a variety of different activities. He has a very infectious laugh and is always smiling. Joseph is an incredibly special person and I feel honored to be a part of his life.”
Joseph lives at home in Ellinwood with his father and mother, Jonathan and Adria, along with his younger brothers, Austin and Hunter. The 11-year-old has attended special education classes at Eisenhower Elementary since he was a first-grader.
Adria learned that Joseph had won the award a week before the presentation. It was difficult keeping the exciting news from her son, but seeing his elation and surprise the day he received the award made the wait worthwhile, she said.
“He was very excited and surprised that he won,” said Adria. “We’ve been telling everybody and he’s been telling everybody. He shows his shirt to everyone and shows them the pictures on my cell phone.”
Of special note, Joseph became the first passenger to ride in the new Great Bend DARE vehicle. With officer Davis providing encouragement, he put on handcuffs and pushed the buttons in the vehicle.
“He really liked to push all the buttons,” said Adria. “It was very loud but he didn’t care about the noise, he was just having fun.”