ADA - Rural school children will soon see a new face in their classrooms as a part of the Pontotoc County D.A.R.E., Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

Connie Smith of Ada, Sheriff's office manager and deputy, was recently certified as a D.A.R.E. program instructor. Smith graduated from the two-week course Jan. 20.

"I'm thrilled to death to have her on our team," Sheriff Pete Peterson said, a fourteen-year certified D.A.R.E. instructor.

Smith said for now, fifth and sixth grade students will be the focus of her program. She hopes to better prepare them for the challenges associated with beginning junior high school.

"Having her will help us reach more of the kids," Peterson said. "Adding a female D.A.R.E. instructor gives little girls who may feel uncomfortable with men someone else to talk to. It gives the students another perspective."

In addition to Smith and Peterson, Phillip Wood currently serves as the Ada Police Department D.A.R.E. officer.

Smith makes her classroom debut Monday with the sixth grade class of Latta School. The students will take part in a 10-week program designed to teach positive decision making skills. Smith said at the end of the school year students will go through D.A.R.E. graduation, and will each receive a t-shirt.

"I'm excited about it," Smith said. "D.A.R.E. is a really good program that not only teaches drug awareness but also teaches kids how to make good decisions in everyday life."

Smith has worked within the sheriff's department for nearly 12 years. In addition to her role as office manager and deputy, Smith is also a forensic children interviewer and handles the DNA procedures, probation and parole for the department.

The department's sporty D.A.R.E. car, a crimson Ford Mustang, was a crime seizure and cost the tax-payer nothing up front Peterson said.