By Jay Meisel
At 10-1/2 years old, Alexiana Eliacin doesn't stand out as the strongest, most imposing child in a group.
But when confronted by a St. Lucie County deputy, who posed as a stranger asking her for help, her loud response of no, gave her a commanding presence.
That's the type of response organizers of the rad (resisting aggression defensively) KIDS class held last week at the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office hope children will give in that circumstance.
The program teaches children, ages 5-12, how to respond if confronted by a stranger, bully or vicious dog. It also deals with fire and water safety and other topics.
It was Alexiana's second time taking the course.
She said before she took the class her response to a stranger would have been softer.
"I was pretty shy," she said.
That the program resulted in her being more assertive may have saved her from being abducted last year.
Alexiana said a man she did not know tried to pick her up at school and she was insistent with school employees that she did not know this man.
Sherley Eliacin, her mother, said her daughter learned to be more self-confident from the program.
Deputies taught participants such as Alexiana to avoid situations that might put them in danger, such as going to a public restroom alone, playing in a park at night or going somewhere with someone they don't know.
When the children were asked whether they would allow a stranger to come right up to them, several replied, no.
They also were urged to avoid falling for tricks, such as a stranger approaching and asking them to come help him with something.
Master Deputy Robert Lee told them if a stranger tries to grab them, they should scream and take other actions that produce a lot of noise.
When Master Deputy Lee posed as a stranger, the children practiced saying loudly the response, "Stay back, you're not my dad."
One of the things instructors must overcome is that children are taught to respect adults, he said.
While children should respect adults that doesn't mean they should be compliant if an adult approaches them in a situation that's not appropriate, he said.
Sarah Bearor, a parent from Fort Pierce, said she believes the program is providing her 9-year-old son, Jackson, with decision-making skills that will help him deal with potentially dangerous situations.
Strangers aren't the only potential dangers to children.
Master Deputy Lee said another danger could be a dog.
He told them, in most cases, the dog will come up and sniff them and then leave.
But, he said, if it appears a dog might attack they should protect their faces and their ears.
For more information, about the radKIDS program, call (772) 462-3356.