By Tech. Sgt. Cheresa D. Theiral
Colorado National Guard public affairs
AURORA, Colorado – Colorado National Guard's Joint Counter Drug Task Force, in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Agency and Miss Colorado, is leading the charge to bring an anti-drug message to 65 schools across the state during Red Ribbon Week.
While Red Ribbon Week officially spans seven days in October, one week just isn't enough time to reach all the schools that request support from the Colorado JCDTF.
"Red Ribbon Week is a DEA initiative that we are glad to support." said Colorado Air National Guard Lt. Col. Chris Ryan, CO-JCDTF commander. "We have a great partnership with the DEA in Red Ribbon Week as well as other narcotics enforcement initiatives. Red Ribbon Week presents the National Guard in a very positive light in our communities while it plants a positive, anti-drug message in the minds of Colorado kids. It also helps us get our foot in the door to promote some of our more involved programs like 'Stay on Track,' a measurable, evidenced based, drug abuse prevention program we have recently started presenting in Colorado schools."
Two Army OH-58 Kiowa helicopters and associated counterdrug crews have already started making presentations, up to five each per day, starting with Peiffer Elementary School in Littleton, Colo., Oct. 13, 2008.
When Michael Moore, a DEA agent, asked a group of Peiffer students what they wanted to be when they grew up, answers ran the gamut, between artists, professional sports players and veterinarians.
"What you guys heard was a lot of hopes and dreams, a lot of big ideas aspirations that can all come true, but you can't do one thing," Moore told the students. "You can't do drugs because it will take your dreams away. You guys can do and achieve anything you want. You guys have to stay in school, put your mind to it and make good decisions."
Jamie Dukehart-Conti, Miss Colorado 2008, then described her three jobs: representing her state and community as Miss Colorado, being a nanny and being a Denver Broncos cheerleader, all while striving to be an elementary school teacher. She said she's successful because she's never done drugs.
"You need to make good choices and good decisions along the way," said Dukehart-Conti. "It's not always easy, but it is really, really important that when you say no to drugs, you mean no."
Peiffer students went on to make a pledge to stay drug-free.
"I promise to never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever do drugs," the children sounded in unison.
As a testament to power of positive influence, first grader Jenasey Martinez decided she wanted to be a Soldier, a helicopter pilot and Miss Colorado when she grows up, because after only a half hour presentation, she sees awesome opportunities ahead.
"I think I'm going to be a powerful woman," said first grader Jordan Parker, who doesn't yet know what career path she'll take. "I'm going to do something, but I'm not going to do drugs."
Students were also given an opportunity to walk around the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter to see the drug interdiction helicopter up close.
"I like it because it's big," said first grader Isabella Gonzales.
"It's cool on the inside," said first grader Robbie Berry.
Not all kids were impressed by the Kiowa, however.
"Next time, you guys should bring the Chinook," said sixth grader Stefan Leescu.
The CO-JCDTF supports local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, community-based organizations and schools with a variety of services to help rid Colorado communities of the effects of drug abuse and associated social issues. For more information, visit http://www.cong.army.mil/jso.html.
The National Family Partnership is the sponsor of the National Red Ribbon Week Celebration, and the Red Ribbon Campaign is now the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation. For more information, visit http://www.nfp.org/redribbon.htm.