D.A.R.E. Officer Mark Robinson recently went to visit former students at Clarkstown High School South and popped into one particular classroom because he recognized a few students in there. When he appeared, one girl in the class shrieked and yelled out something a bit alarming to Robinson.
“Oh my god, Officer Robinson, I can’t believe you’re still alive,” she said.
Robinson, who is a member of the Clarkstown Police Department, said the student quickly realized she shouldn’t have said that and then tried to cover it up by saying she thought she read something about him dying in a newspaper. Robinson said he likes to visit the high schools once a year and Felix Festa Middle School a few times to check in with former students after they graduate from the D.A.R.E. Program in elementary school.
For Robinson, that’s quite a few students. He recently oversaw his 100th D.A.R.E. graduation, teaching more than 2,000 Clarkstown students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
“I was told it was an honor to have presided over 100 graduations,” he said. “I started thinking, to be around for 100 of anything you have to be around for a long time. And I have been, I just didn’t realize how long.”
He relayed the story about his non-death Wednesday night at the Clarkstown Council PTAs annual Founders Day Celebration, where he was honored for his service to the district by being given the PTA Council Appreciation Award.
“When I was asked to say a few words in honor of Mark, I knew that would be a tremendous challenge,” said Link Elementary School Principal Francine Cuccia. “How does one capture the dynamic unique wonderful serious yet funny qualities that have led you to get this award?”
Cuccia summed up Robinson’s work by asking those he works with the closest: his students. She said when she talked to students about Robinson, they mentioned that he was a friend, someone who listens to their concerns and problems, helping them to work to solutions.
“The words ‘drug resistance’ or ‘refusal skills’ were merely words to the students until you brought them to life and gave them a deep understanding with your masterful teaching,” she said.
Cuccia said the fifth-grade students came up with a top 10 list of reasons they love Robinson. The list included that he’s funny, he handcuffed a student who had the birthday closest to his, he makes learning fun and that his lessons are always hands-on, including the time he let the students put on drunk glasses and had them try to catch a ball.