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5th-graders graduate from drug prevention program
Hall County Sheriff's Office sponsors ADVANCE
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Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic speaks to ADVANCE students Monday at Lanier Elementary School. - photo by Tom Reed

ADVANCE GRADUATIONS

Where: Martin Elementary School
When: 9:30 a.m. today
Instructor: Sgt. Tim Davidson

Where: Lyman Hall Elementary School
When: 1 p.m. today
Instructor: AnMarie Martin

Fifth-graders at Lanier Elementary School don’t graduate until May, but a Monday commencement ceremony marked their completion of the ADVANCE curriculum.

ADVANCE, sponsored by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, stands for Avoiding Drugs Violence and Negative Choices Early.

Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic said it doesn’t take a bad person to make a bad decision.

“There are so many people (that) are in jail that aren’t bad people — they just didn’t make the right choices,” he said.

The ADVANCE program seeks to remedy that.

“Our goal is to give them the tools to help them make good choices as they move forward,” he said. “I always like to think back to the time when I was their age, so many years ago. We didn’t have as many things to deal with, temptations, choices and things. So it’s tough for young people now.” Cronic said.

Several students were recognized for their outstanding contributions to the program.

Esmirna Salcido showed off her award-winning poster she spent two days working on
at home. She said the gang prevention messages were what she most took away
from ADVANCE.

“There’s a lot of kids that join gangs, and I want to really show kids that it’s not good to be in gangs,” Salcido said. “If you’re in a gang, you hurt the people around you.”

More Hall County 5th-graders will graduate from ADVANCE this week, as well.

Cronic and other deputies will be at Martin Elementary School and Lyman Hall Elementary School today.

It’s a bittersweet time for Cronic, who is retiring at the end of the month.

“When I talk about things that I enjoy about my job, this has been one of my favorite things — working with young people and particularly these 5th-graders,” he said.

“Everything is wide-eyed wonder. They can go anywhere from where they were sitting today, I truly believe that.”

He said after this week he’ll have attended more than 250 ADVANCE graduations with 2,000-plus students.

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