Each year, hundreds of schools across the U.S. take part in Red Ribbon Week. National Red Ribbon Week is a unified effort, sponsored by the National Family Partnership, to promote student commitment to a drug-free America. The event is often marked with school spirit, can-do attitude and enthusiasm.
A Red Color of Purpose
Its origins, however, are more somber. In 1985, Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique Camarena was kidnapped, tortured and killed. He had joined the DEA based on his philosophy “I’m only one person. But I want to make a difference.”
Parents and youth were angered by Camarena’s horrific death and began wearing red ribbons as a symbol of continuing Camarena’s and their own commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction caused by drugs in the U.S. In 1988, NFP sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Celebration.
That spirit of making a difference is celebrated at the Gates Chili Central School District’s three elementary schools, which have been longtime participants in Red Ribbon Week.
“Red Ribbon Week is an opportunity to encourage our students to live a healthy lifestyle and to reinforce our character education of the Spartan Way values,” says Jackie Finn, Gates Chili public information officer. “Elementary students receive information about nutrition, wellness and making healthy choices to last a lifetime. Our families also give back to the community through blood drives, non-perishable food drive collections, sock drives and the Spartan Way Coat Drive to help those in need.”
Florence Brasser Elementary School
The official NFP National Red Ribbon Week for 2017 is October 23 through 31. The folks at Florence Brasser, however, chose to host it from October 30 to November 2. This way, their efforts concluded with a participation in the second annual District Wellness Fair.
The week kicked off with an all-school assembly on October 30. Throughout the week a variety of activities promoted staying drug-free through the school’s four cornerstone character traits: respect, responsibility, compassion and hard work.
Morning announcements, bulletin board displays, theme days, service work and prizes all promoted the practice of establishing healthy habits and treating others the way students and teachers want to be treated.
Walt Disney Elementary School
According to Mary Ladd, school nurse and teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School, Red Ribbon Week 2017 emphasized Spartan Way compassion.
To drum up excitement and participation, the school hosted a series of activities and coordinating displays:
• Monday: Wear red with displays of “Be Good to Everyone.”
• Tuesday: Halloween
• Wednesday: We are a Team that can say No to Drugs and Make Healthy Choices. Students wore their favorite team’s jerseys and hats. All students received pencils.
• Thursday: Gates Chili Family Health Fair.
The school also uses Red Ribbon Week to help the community with a holiday food drive. All week, students brought in non-perishable food donations for St. Theodore’s food pantry. If the students fill Principal Elaine Damelio’s office with donations, she rewards them with a silly activity. For 2017, she planned to dress up like a chicken and dance the chicken dance with the students.
Ladd says one of the students’ favorite activities is the school-wide assembly, which kicks the week off. “There is a lot of energy in the building when we come together for the same lesson,” she says.
Neil Armstrong Elementary School
Neil Armstrong’s celebration of Red Ribbon week aligns with that of NFP, starting on October 23. Every year the school organizes a week of themed days. This year’s schedule of themes included:
• Monday: Wear Red from Foot to Head.
• Tuesday: Be Positive in PJs!
• Wednesday: Be Kind and Crazy (wear crazy hair and clothes).
• Thursday: Believe in the Red, White, and Blue like We Believe in You!
The themed days are so popular at Neil Armstrong that students often claim them as their favorite part of Red Ribbon Week. School Nurse and teacher Madaly Zulauf says students love hat days and crazy clothing days.
“I think that their enthusiasm has more to do with participating in a whole school activity,” Zulauf says.
Neil Armstrong ties the idea of Red Ribbon Week to an overall healthy lifestyle. Wholesome food choices, daily exercise, adequate sleep and putting only healthy things into your body are all messages that were emphasized throughout the week.