This week, school districts all over the country are seeing red.
On Wednesday, students and faculty at Jefferson Middle School participated in Red Ribbon Week by wearing red. This nationwide event takes place annually during the last full week of October. It is being observed at Jefferson through Friday.
Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. It originated in California as a means of honoring the memory and furthering the cause of Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, a member of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration who was tortured and killed by a Mexican drug cartel in 1985.
On Wednesday, students of Jefferson Middle School showed their school spirit by wearing red in celebration of Red Ribbon Week.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
Shortly after his death, community members in his hometown of Imperial Valley began wearing red ribbons to symbolize their commitment to leading drug-free lives and to support the DEA's efforts to reduce demand for drugs through prevention and education programs. The Red Ribbon Week campaign as we know it emerged from their efforts.
Jefferson Middle School has celebrated the campaign since its conception. Every year, the district hosts a spirit week in which students participate by dressing up in different outfits for every day of the week.
"Every day we have something fun for the kids to do," said Carm Proctor, principal at Jefferson. "For example, yesterday was crazy sock day and Monday was sports shirt day. It just reinforces the community value that we have. It is our responsibility to teach children to give back to the community because they so graciously give to us all the time. And we build community by holding school wide things."
The main idea behind Red Ribbon week, however, isn't just to dress up but to take preventative measures in promoting healthy choices and behavior.
"When you're dealing with children, it's an awareness thing," said Proctor. "We look at what kind of activities we can do to make students aware that while we're focusing on (Red Ribbon Week), these are life long behaviors that we want students to not ever try or cease and desist. The whole issue is promoting a positive behavior, you can substitute any number of activities for drugs."
Students also receive statistics on drug types and drug use as well as take part in various activities, equipping them with the knowledge and ability to make anti-drug decisions.
"Spirit week is a fun time to do things out of the ordinary for us in school," said Madison DeLong, an eighth-grader. "Also, after-school stuff helps kids to stay off the streets. If you go to youth group, Boys and Girls club, something like that, it helps for after school so you're not out selling who knows what."
Jefferson Middle School wraps up its Red Ribbon Week celebration on Friday with "Retro Day."