Local schools recognize long-running drug prevention campaign

By Paige Nash

Last week local schools and daycares celebrated National Red Ribbon Week, the world’s largest and longest-running drug-use prevention campaign. This week always takes place from October 23-31 each year. Schools celebrate by having dress-up days, contests, events, evidence-based presentations and more throughout the week.  

“To me this week becomes more and more important each year,” said Ursula Hullaby, Safe and Drug-free Schools and Communities Coordinator. “Our school age children are faced with countless choices and unfortunately drugs and alcohol choices are combative.” 

This year’s theme was “Celebrate Life. Live Drug Free.”  

This week serves as a reminder of the negative impact that drug use can have on individuals and the lives of those around them. It provides an educational opportunity and brings awareness to youth across the globe, allowing them a chance to make a commitment and pledge to be the best version of themselves by living drug free.  

Parental involvement is crucial to the success of this movement. 

“Parents can get involved by sharing the message of their children being drug-free and reiterating positive choices, sitting down and having candid conversations with their children, letting the child know that they are a safe place for them to share hard conversations,” said Hullaby. 

Red Ribbon Week was headed by the National Family Partnership (NFP) which began as a nonprofit organization in 1980 when a small group of concerned parents felt it was their responsibility to lead a mission in drug prevention. This organization, once a grassroots project, is now a national leader in advocating for drug prevention in the youth of our country. 

The red ribbon became a symbol of commitment beginning in 1985 following the murder of United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. This case led to the arrests of three prominent leaders of the Guadalajara drug cartel from Mexico who captured, tortured and murdered Camarena along with 10 additional trials in Los Angeles, California for other Mexican nationals involved in drug crime.  

Enraged by this horrendous murder, members of the community began wearing red ribbons pinned to their shirts to honor Camarena and bring awareness to the destruction caused by drugs in the nation. Inspired and motivated by these active and concerned parents and youth, the NFP sponsored the first ever National Red Ribbon week in 1988.  

Even though this is only one week per year, schools remain active in teaching evidence-based curriculums such as Project Northland and Second Step throughout the rest of the year to combat and reduce the use of drugs and alcohol among the youth. 

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