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‘Be Happy. Be Brave. Be Drug Free’ is theme of coming Red Ribbon Week, schools are celebrating

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune health reporter

Red Ribbon Week is the nation’s largest and longest-running drug-use prevention program. Since 1985, Red Ribbon Week (RRW) has brought awareness, advocacy, and resources for youth to live a drug-free life.

October 23-31, schools in the area will be celebrating Red Ribbon Week in their unique way. COVID is not going to put a damper on spirits.

The grassroots beginning took place when Drug Enforcement Agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, was killed in Mexico. In his memory, Kiki’s friends and neighbors began to wear satin red badges. Coalitions began forming, believing one person can make a difference. These coalitions adopted the Red Ribbon as a symbol of Camarena and his fight against drugs.

Be Happy. Be Brave. Be Drug Free is the 2020 Nationwide Red Ribbon Campaign theme created by Tricia Nelson of Locust Corner Elementary School in Cincinnati. The week of events is designed by each school or community holding them. Some ideas have been, schools holding a Red Ribbon Rally, writing an article about Red Ribbon Week for their newspaper, Wear Red Day, or have a walk.

St. Henry District High School celebrates the week in fun ways. Staff and students have themed days such as Team Up Tuesday and Wacky Wednesday. Playing music over the intercom between classes, giveaways of gift cards and small prizes help create excitement for the week.

Jennifer Welch

Julie Feinauer, School Counselor at St. Henry District High Schools says they celebrate Red Ribbon Week to reward the students who are making the right decisions.

“They become role models for those who are making a choice about using drugs or alcohol,” she says.

St. Henry junior, Noah Francis likes the reminder of just how important drug-abuse prevention is in our community.

“When you look at the history and purpose of the event, I believe the week stands for something bigger than ourselves. Through Red Ribbon Week and the memory of DEA Agent Kiki, I hope our community can understand that drug-abuse has the potential to destroy the value each life holds,” Francis says.

The Boone County Alliance for Healthy Youth (BCA) is supporting schools in their efforts to promote drug-free teens. BCA delivered Red Ribbon logo gear to all the middle schools and high schools in Boone County, including independent, parochial, and public.

BCA Coordinator Jennifer Welch says that the BCA is a community coalition all about promoting the prevention of drug/substance use and underage drinking among youth.

“The more we can get the word out about not using drugs to solve problems, the more we will support any [organization] that supports that,” Welch says.

The swag delivered to schools has the RRW and BCA slogan, “Healthy Not Hooked.” Teachers receive a red face mask and red cup. Students get a red bracelet. They can take these home, out in the community, and spread the word that way.

Noah Francis

“We’re hoping that this kind of swag will stay around for the rest of the year,” Welch says. Spreading the word about prevention and the coalition, to get community members involved, are goals. More community involvement means year-round prevention awareness and events.

Students and staff appreciate the swag.

“When those students see students proudly wearing their RED RIBBON bracelet, it makes it easier to be brave, and stay drug-free,” Feinhaeur says.

Sometimes staff does not always realize their influence on students.

“When students see their teachers proudly displaying their BCA items, they know that not only is the teacher supporting BCA, they are also standing behind them, supporting them when they make tough decisions about drugs and alcohol,” she says.

Francis agrees and enjoys receiving the Red Ribbon Week swag.

“The swag provided by the [BCA] is another facet of our efforts to reduce drug abuse in our communities. The swag enables me and many others to become ambassadors for drug-abuse prevention and raise awareness as well,” says Francis. 

“I enjoy participating in Red Ribbon Week because it enables me to raise awareness for the prevention of drug-abuse and lets people, especially my classmates, know that I’m right here for them,” he says.

Francis also has plans outside of school for how we will bring awareness to others during the week. He will be at trunk-or-treat on October 27th at the Florence Y’alls stadium with BCA.

The Red Ribbon Week website provides many resources for the event and for anyone wanting to learn more about drug-prevention throughout the year. Boone County will have much going on as the schools and health department all find ways to participate and bring this important topic to light.

Embracing a program like Red Ribbon Week is not only good for drug-prevention awareness but also empowering our youth. It empowers our youth to be brave and become leaders.

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