NORWALK, Conn. -- Norwalk police officers and fifth-graders gathered at Art Plus Studio on Monday for a day of painting as part of the department's D.A.R.E. summer camp program.
The program, which has been going on for nearly 20 years, allows students the opportunity to engage in fun and educational activities for two weeks in the summer. The program is led by Officers Christopher Holms and Phil Taborda of the Norwalk Police Department, both members of the Police Explorer Program.
"There's a lot of team-building skills," said Holms. The 35 students in the program have gone on rope courses at the Wilton YMCA and participated in kayaking activities at Down Under Kayaking in Rowayton. They've also had a two-hour course on drug abuse led by the Human Services Council. Holms said the students were very engaged in the discussion and asked a lot of questions.
Although one of the goals is to teach kids about staying away from drugs, Holms said, "They're mostly here to have fun."
"Through their interaction with each other, they build up a lot of confidence. No one is left behind, they learn to play together and accept each other for who they are," Holms said. "There's a cool growth that you see with these kids who maybe don't know each other that well pulling together for one another."
Some of the students Monday were working on "Flowering Cat" paintings at Art Plus, while other kids were exploring whatever came to mind. Art Plus Studio is a new studio that launched this year in South Norwalk after opening its first location in New Haven two years ago. The studio often hosts BYOB painting parties for adults, as well as activities for kids.
"It's very rewarding working with the kids and seeing what they create. They're often better than the adults, because they're less critical and can be very creative," said owner Bella Zadore as she helped the D.A.R.E. students with their paintings. She said that after she heard of the program, she knew she wanted to be a part of it.
"I thought it was amazing," Zadore said. "Being from Brazil, and I know what kids can get into when they're not occupied. They can get into drugs and other things they're not supposed to be doing, so I'm happy I can be a part of this."
The kids will next be taking a tour of the police station, where they will meet the chief and see the canine units. At the end of the program they will enjoy a large feast catered by Stew Leonard's.