On May 4, a graduation ceremony was held for 240 students in the sixth grade at Rosa International Middle School for completing L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Against Drugs & Violence), a nationwide nonprofit that works with communities to help students understand the dangers of drugs and violence.
The children were instructed by Lieutenant Edward Walto and six Police Officers at Cherry Hill Police Department, Anthony Amato, Gerald Gares, Kevin Crain, Alex Nord, Ashley Pledger and Joseph Radetich, who were trained by L.E.A.D. to teach the program’s evidence-based curriculum during the school day. Now, the sixth graders will round off the first ever L.E.A.D. program taught in Cherry Hill Township.
“We’re excited for the L.E.A.D. students in Cherry Hill Township to enjoy a well-deserved graduation celebration as they worked hard to successfully complete our program,” said Nick DeMauro, CEO of L.E.A.D. “All the Cherry Hill Township police officers did an excellent job teaching the sixth graders how to set goals, manage their emotions and make good decisions, in addition to helping them understand why steering clear of drugs and violence is vital.
“We’re thrilled that the Cherry Hill Police Department became trained to teach the curriculum implemented by our organization as they’ll be able to continue impacting the lives of young students.”
L.E.A.D. provides services “On the Street” and “In the Classroom” as it brings law enforcement and communities closer together. The “In the Classroom” program is taught by 3800 trained instructors in 41 states. L.E.A.D. has a proven effective, law enforcement-focused anti–drug, anti–violence curriculum for K-12 students in the U.S. The L.E.A.D. curriculum is taught over the course of a 10-week program to educate youth on how they can make smart decisions without the involvement of drugs or violence.
Following graduation on May 4, Lieutenant Walto and the six police officers at Cherry Hill Police Department will continue to teach L.E.A.D. in the fall of 2023 at Carusi Middle School, and in the spring of 2024 at Beck Middle School and Rosa International Middle School. The kickoff of the program, says Officer Amato, signified wonderful things to come for all the kids who attend the public schools in Cherry Hill Township.
“The curriculum put forth by L.E.A.D. has provided the students with countless invaluable lessons. The organization focuses on providing children with a foundation to succeed in the program and in the rest of their lives,” he said. “We’re excited to continue using L.E.A.D. as the drug and violence prevention curriculum at Cherry Hill Police Department, and we’re confident that teaching children about the dangers of harmful substances as well as how to become more informed individuals will provide them skills to last a lifetime.”
Throughout the ten weeks, unbreakable bonds have formed between the police officers at Cherry Hill Police Department teaching L.E.A.D. and the graduating group of sixth graders. Officer Amato says that they look forward to continuing fostering the relationship that they have with children in the schools.
“The joy on the kids’ faces when we walk through the hallway demonstrates that L.E.A.D. has allowed us to successfully strengthen our relationship with them,” said Officer Amato. “The students have enjoyed getting to see the same group of police officers as we come into their classroom each week to begin a new unit in the program, whether it’s on learning how to communicate more effectively with their peers or why succumbing to peer pressure could significantly hinder their futures.
“We’re excited to bring that same level of consistency to the next batch of sixth graders that we teach the program to and hopefully see many more smiling faces.”