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CHAMPS graduates more than 300
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In the past three weeks, about 300 fifth grade students throughout the county have been awarded and recognized for completion of a 12-core lesson course known as CHAMPS.


An acronym standing for choosing healthy activities and methods promoting safety, the program was taught to fifth grade students in each school in the county by school resource officers from the Dawson County Sheriffs Office: Cpl. Steven Swofford, Black’s Mill Elementary School and Kilough Elementary School; Dep. Stan Harrison, Robinson Elementary School.


At each graduation ceremony, every student that passed the course was given a certificate of completion.


A cookout after each ceremony was provided for the students by the school resource officers.


One fifth grade student at Robinson, Chris Bourrie, said that before completing the CHAMPS course, he “didn’t know how dangerous some things can be.”


Bourrie’s classmate John Holcombe agreed and added that he learned “the affects drugs can have on your life and its better to not do them.”


According to Swofford, in order to complete the course and participate in the graduation ceremony, students had attendance requirements, workbooks requirements and had to write an essay upon completion of the last class about what they learned from the program.


“All of the students did a great job, and it was not an easy task to select essay winners because they were all done well,” said Swofford at the graduation ceremonies of Kilough and Black’s Mill.


An essay winner for each class was named, as well as an overall winner for the entire grade from each school.


Dawson County Middle School’s health and P.E. teacher, Jonathan Tinsley, was the guest speaker at all three graduation ceremonies. Tinsley delivered an inspirational and motivational speech to the students about making good decisions and standing up for what they know is right.


“Things are going to happen that you can’t control, but you can control your actions and how you handle situations,” Tinsley said.


“Character is what you stand for, and reputation is what you fall for,” advised Tinsley.


Founded in 2003 by the Georgia Sheriff’s Association, the CHAMPS program is targeted toward fifth grade students to resist self-destructive behavior.


Today’s students face dangers that older generations could not have imagined, which is one of the main reasons why the program was developed, according to the Georgia Sheriff’s Association Web site.


Consisting of 12 core lessons taught from October through March, the program covered subject matters including peer pressure, gangs and violence, drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse prevention and more.


According to Sgt. Johnny Holtzclaw, Dawson County was one of the first to come on board with the program. In the fall of 2004, the county participated as a pilot program, this first year it was offered, and has been participating since.


“The sheriffs office has been working since 1991 to continuously educate and provide our students with the tools and resources they need to make good decisions,” Holtzclaw said.