They wore black T-shirts with red letters that said "D.A.R.E. to Say No to Drugs" as they celebrated completion of a four-week course that helped them do just that.
Almost 350 North Harford Middle School students attended a ceremony at the Pylesville school Friday concluding the third year of the Harford County Sheriff's Office Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
The 17-session program has reached students, Principal Gerald E. Scarborough said.
"In just a month," he said, "I can see the change in attitude among the children toward police officers."
The Sheriff's Office says its part of the program reaches 1,700 sixth-graders annually.
Deputy First Class Steve Rathgeber, who works in community relations programs, is a member of the Special Response Team -- the Sheriff's Office's SWAT team.
He recalled a boy calling to thank him after a drug raid last year in Edgewood. The youngster had seen the deputy at the raid and just wanted to thank him for helping run drug dealers out of his neighborhood.
Deputies Keith Warner, Hugh Williams and Jim Waltman have recounted similar experiences.
The D.A.R.E. concept began in 1983 in Los Angeles and has spread to 50 states and some foreign countries, Deputy Rathgeber said. It helps students recognize and resist pressure to experiment with drugs.
Police officers also operate the D.A.R.E. program in Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace.
Friday's festivities included a brief talk from County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann.
Businessman Kurt Aarsand provided awards to poster contest winners, promising increased future support from his Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell restaurants in the county.
Jack Fiorini's winning poster earned him a baseball autographed by Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson. Runner-up Robin Dansberger won a black nylon D.A.R.E. jacket. Andrea Harkins received a D.A.R.E. sweat shirt for third place, and David Gottsfeld earned a D.A.R.E. gym bag for fourth.