News: Red Ribbon Week brings attention to drug awareness, prevention
Story by Pfc. David Walters
IWAKUNI, Japan - According to http://redribbon.org, Red Ribbon Week began when Enrique Camarena, a Drug Enforcement Administration Agent, was tortured and killed in Mexico in 1985, after exploited during an undercover assignment inside a drug cartel in Mexico. In honor of Camarena, his family members and neighbors started wearing red badges of satin. The red badges soon became a red ribbon, used to signify the belief, “one man can make a difference.” The National Family Partnership sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Celebration in 1988.
According to http://health.usnews.com, 90 percent of Americans who are addicted to tobacco, alcohol or other drug related substances started using these products before the age of 18.
Matthew C. Perry schools celebrate Red Ribbon Week by encouraging students to participate in a dress-up theme each day of the week, aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Oct. 28 – Nov. 1, 2013.
“Red Ribbon Week is a national program that promotes students having a drug-free life,” said Deborah Kehoe, the guidance counselor for M. C. Perry High School. “I consider a drug-free life to be without tobacco, drugs and alcohol. It can have various themes throughout the year, but the goal is to promote the, ‘just say no,’ concept.”
This year for Red Ribbon Week, staff members of the high school are educating their students on the negative effects of smoking, drinking and drugs, as well as the legal risks that come with making negative choices with drugs and underage smoking and drinking, said Kehoe.
“I’m a guidance counselor, so I’m always planning for what to do after high school,” said Kehoe. “If you’re going to get a job, you need to make sure you can sustain a job. If you have a drug addiction, that’s not going to be possible. If you get to college, you need to make sure you’re going to classes and being a good student. If you’re passed out drunk at noon, that’s not going to be possible. If you’re smoking, it’s going to be cutting years off your life in the future. That’s why we are doing this and making sure they know the long-term effects.”
Mary F. Fisk, the guidance counselor for M. C. Perry Elementary School, said, because of the age difference between the high school and elementary school, they have to take a different approach when it comes to educating younger children about drug prevention and awareness.
“With our students, we focused a lot on peer pressure,” said Fisk. “How to say no to peer pressure, what is peer pressure and what are some times or ways we might be peer pressured by our friends.”
Some people may say that teaching young kids about drug prevention and awareness is a lost cause, but Fisk thinks in a contradictory way.
“I think if you can reach them younger, then these are skills they will have throughout their lives,” said Fisk. “From now until they are 30, they are going to be faced with peer pressure.”
With Red Ribbon Week being a nationally celebrated event among schools throughout the United States, MCAS Iwakuni celebrates and keeps the 25-year-old tradition alive overseas.
“(Drugs) are such a huge problem, and it’s going to be a huge problem, so we are educating our young kids about it, because they are going to be the leaders of our nation at some point,” said Kehoe. “Maybe it will stick in one student’s brain, and when they become an adult, it will be something they can use to fight the battle.”