For Sergeant Michael Cimino, this year marked the end of a twelve-year run as the Hodgkins DARE officer. On April 24, Cimino stood before a crowd of students, parents, teachers, administrators, police, and civic leaders at the 2013 DARE Graduation, and addressed the group for the last time in that capacity. He expressed his thankfulness to the police department for its full support of him as he led DARE, to the teachers who assisted him over the years, and to the parents for entrusting their children with him on all the outings and activities that make up such a large portion of the program. He also thanked Sergeant Chris Milojevich, who currently runs Anti-Gang/Anti-Bullying Day at the school, for giving him the opportunity to run the DARE program, as well as the freedom to run it his own way.
Officer Matthew Hosteny will now take on DARE duties, picking up where Cimino leaves off. Cimino expressed his full confidence that DARE is in capable hands with the new DARE officer.
“I’m sure [Hosteny] will do a great job, as he’s young and he already has a good relationship with the kids,” said Cimino.
Speaking of the joys of working with his DARE classes, Cimino had this to say: “I think what I will miss most is seeing the enthusiasm of the kids when I would walk in. Kids get very excited about DARE activities.”
Cimino was also quick to admit that he had been changed by the experience.
“It’s helped me to look at law enforcement through the eyes of sixth-graders, and how they view police officers,” he said. “It’s made me more mindful and aware of our image in the community. I’m proud that, as a DARE officer, I was able to be a positive adult figure, and in particular a positive law enforcement figure, in so many children’s lives. Often, because I taught multiple siblings in succession over several years, and interacted with their parents and siblings over and over, I had the feeling of being a part of their family.”
The Hodgkins DARE program was started in January of 1991 by former Chief Phil Kringlie, who was then a youth officer, at the behest of Chief Rich Stewart. A year later, Milojevich was invited to run the program, and did so for nine years. During his tenure as DARE officer, Milojevich started the practice of taking the kids on field trips and doing community service projects, such as raking leaves for the the elderly and fundraising for flood victims and a children’s home for the abused. He first contacted Cimino, who had already been a juvenile officer for two years at that time, about DARE in 2000, to see if he would be interested in becoming the new DARE officer. He later turned the program completely over to Cimino, in 2001. Milojevich knew firsthand how effective creative freedom could be in energizing a program, and he wanted to pass that along.
“I wanted him to run DARE as he saw fit, to make the program his own,” Milojevich said. “I didn’t want to intrude on his ideas. I was given free reign, and I wanted him to have the same opportunity.”
And Milojevich was pleased with the results.
“I think Mike did a wonderful job,” Milojevich said. “He was committed to making the program work, sacrificing a lot of time away from his family. And the kids really loved him.”
Chief Ernest Millsap of the Hodgkins Police Department, who taught DARE in Countryside for twelve years, had modelled his own program in the much the same way as Milojevich, taking the kids on field trips, doing fundraisers, and participating in various community service projects. In addition, he started doing end-of-year video slideshows to highlight the activities of each graduating DARE class, and that was something Cimino incorporated as well. At the recent graduation, Millsap gave a public recognition of Cimino and expressed both his personal appreciation of the hard work Cimino has done, as well as the appreciation of the department for the many years of tireless service given.
Millsap also relates to the sentiments Cimino expressed. “The bonds you
make with students are always there, as well as with parents,” he said.
The Hodgkins Police Department is now at work developing further school-interaction programs, which Millsap will unveil in the upcoming months.
“We are in the process of developing DARE-type programs for some of the lower grades, which will cover anti-bullying, avoiding bad situations, and knowing who to call if help is needed.”