Elementary schools participate in Red Ribbon Week

The Red Ribbon Campaign is one of the oldest and largest drug prevention programs in the nation, reaching millions of young people during Red Ribbon Week Oct. 23 to 31 each year.

According to redribbon.org, Red Ribbon Week is an ideal way for people and communities to unite and take a visible stand against drugs, and this year’s theme is “Celebrate Life. Live Drug-Free.”

Since its beginning in 1985, the red ribbon has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. The campaign originated with the murder of Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique Camarena, which angered parents and youth in communities across the country. In response, they began wearing red ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction cause by drugs in America.

On Feb. 7, 1985, the 37-year-old Camarena left his office to meet his wife for lunch. Five men appeared at the agent’s side and shoved him in a car. One month later, Camarena’s body was found. He had been tortured to death.

In honor of Camarena’s memory and his battle against illegal drugs, friends and neighbors began to wear red badges of satin and parents began forming coalitions, adopting the symbol of Camarena’s memory, the red ribbon.

Elementary schools in Seymour recognized Red Ribbon Week by participating in various activities and educating students about the dangers of drugs.

Meredith Henry, a social worker at Seymour-Redding Elementary School, said, “The purpose of celebrating Red Ribbon Week at Redding Elementary is for all of us to come together to keep children, families and communities safe, healthy and drug-free.”

All students in grades kindergarten through fifth received a Red Ribbon Week lesson from Henry on a variety of topics, but in particular, making safe and healthy choices.

“It might include choosing between healthy versus unhealthy items that we put into our bodies, the importance of taking medications appropriately, the dangers of smoking and other drugs and peer pressure,” Henry said. “The kids respond very well to the lessons as well as the dressup days to show their support of Red Ribbon Week and their commitment to it.”

She said there is a lot of discussion about people being in control of their own bodies, self and choices.

For dress-up days, students and staff started off the week last Monday by wearing sports clothes to team up against bad choices, Tuesday was Hawaiian attire to lei off drugs, Wednesday they wore western gear to giddy up against drugs, Thursday they wore clothes to represent their career choices because their future is too bright for drugs and Friday they wore festive colors to say boo to drugs.

Henry said, “Our staff and families alike are just awesome in supporting all of these weeks that support our kids and our community.”

Wendy Nicholson, school counselor for Emerson and Cortland elementary school, said both schools participated in Red Ribbon Week activities.

“In addition to dress-up days, we had specific guidance lessons in each classroom for kindergarten through fifth grade about the dangers of drugs and alcohol,” she said. “At Emerson, we had a door decorating contest, and Mrs. Short’s kindergarten class won.”

At Emerson, Monday was wear red to kick off Red Ribbon Week, Tuesday was “Dream big! Don’t do drugs” and students and staff wore school-appropriate pajamas, Wednesday was “Give drugs the boot” and they wore cowboy clothing, Thursday was “I choose drug-free friends” and dress like twins with a friend and Friday was “It’s cool to be drug-free” and they wore sunglasses.

Nicholson said at Cortland, the Student Enrichment Team came up with the theme and the dress-up days.

Monday was wear red to kick off Red Ribbon Week, Tuesday they wore their favorite sports team gear for “Winners don’t do drugs,” Wednesday was “Don’t get tied up in drugs” and they wore tie-dye clothing, Thursday was “I choose drug-free friends” twin day with a friend and Friday’s theme was “I dream of a drug-free future” for PJ day.

Nicholson said students at both schools received different Red Ribbon Week-themed items to remind them to stay drug- and alcohol-free.

Karen Munson, a social worker at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, said the students there also participated in school dress-up days last week.

Munson said there was a RRW banner out in front of the school from the administrators, a red treat from food services and red ribbons to decorate around the school.

Other activities at the school on the city’s southeast side for the week included daily announcements with a drug-free message, a RRW pencil for each student from Brown staff, RRW water bottle prizes (one for each class drawing done during guidance lessons), a door decorating contest with a pizza party for the winning class and the art classes did special projects.

Munson, who led guidance lessons for each grade, said the students were excited to take part in National Red Ribbon Week, created by Emily King, Chelsea Abbott and Celise Wicker. The three were seventh-graders at Wayland-Cohocton Middle School in Wayland, New York.

“The theme is a reminder that every day, Americans across the country make significant daily contributions to their communities by being the best they can be because they live drug-free,” she said.

Information about Red Ribbon Week can be found on redribbon.org.