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Schools Honor Red Ribbon Week
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Magnolia students were shown they could “soar to new heights without drugs” during Red Ribbon Week when a hot air balloon was inflated on campus. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader

Red ribbons decorated campuses around the Oakdale Joint Unified School District to send a message to students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and formally recognize Red Ribbon Week held Oct. 26-30.

Each school had its own special activities to go with the week’s overall theme of “Drug Free is the Key.” Red Ribbon bracelets were distributed to students, as well as stickers and pencils commemorating the week. Each day of the week had its own theme where students dressed up to show their support and participated in a corresponding theme-related activity during lunchtime.

The purpose of the Red Ribbon Week campaign is to educate youth about the dangers of drugs and alcohol and to encourage and offer support to parents in how to initiate discussions about drugs with their children.

The Oakdale Junior High School eighth grade leadership officers Tanner Morgan, Haley Munns, Austin Steves, and Beau Courtroul, along with their leadership classmates spent about a month planning for the Red Ribbon Week activities.

They had a wrecked car delivered by Steves Chevrolet and placed on the lawn at the front of the school campus to make an impression with students.

“The whole week is about preventing the use of drugs and alcohol and this car was brought because the driver was under the influence of alcohol and we brought it to show what drugs and alcohol can do,” said Munns.

The leadership officers also recited alcohol and tobacco statistics and facts over the loud speakers during the morning announcements, which also helped the leadership event planners learn about the dangers of drugs and the toll they take on people’s lives.

“I learned from the facts on the announcements that 1,000 kids a day try drugs and get addicted, and 95 percent who don’t get help die,” said Courtroul. “I thought that was a high rate. Since we’re doing Red Ribbon Week and helping out kids, maybe we could drop (the rate).”

“To me, those rates were scary,” added Steves.

There were also a lot of decorations around campus, windows were painted and red ribbons wound their way around nearly every pole and rail.

Donut parties were awarded at OJHS to the second period homeroom classes that best decorated their classroom doors with the Red Ribbon Week theme. Principal John Simons was a judge and was unable to pick just one winner. The winners were Marsha Field’s seventh grade English class, June Botto’s seventh grade English class, Lori Vargas’ eighth grade English class, Candi Crawford’s eighth grade science class, and Selene Jimenez’ seventh/eighth ELA class.

At Magnolia Elementary School, a hot air balloon made an early-morning appearance on campus on the final day of the week. Students and teachers gathered on a large play field at the back of campus and watched the balloon fill. With cooperating weather and only a slight breeze, Principal Julie Minabe climbed into the balloon’s basket and took a little ride with the balloon operator. The balloon was tethered so it would not go too high or float too far. The theme with the balloon was “soar to new heights without drugs.”

“I think this is something the kids will always remember,” Minabe said. “It would be so cool if the kids could do it.”

She added that she would like to go up in a hot air balloon again and “float around.” She added that the mini ride she took was like riding an elevator up and down.

At Oakdale High School, students were treated to a free barbecue and planted red tulip bulbs in a planter in the campus courtyard. Students who planted the bulbs had various reasons for participating including just wanting to help out, to beautify campus, and having a fun way to spend lunch. Site event coordinator Linda Lownsbery said that when the flowers bloom in the spring, they will serve as a reminder of the event and of the students’ commitment to stay drug free.

Red Ribbon Week is a nationwide event supporting a drug-free lifestyle that commemorates the life of murdered U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent and father of three sons Enrique Camerena who was murdered by drug traffickers in Mexico in 1985. He was brutally tortured and murdered while working to infiltrate and stop a drug cartel in Guadalajara, Mexico. The murder of the dedicated public servant in the war against illicit drug use sparked public outrage and prompted an unprecedented investigation by the DEA that resulted in the largest anti-drug campaign in our nation’s history. The first Red Ribbon Week events were chaired by President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in 1986 to honor Camarena’s life and service in order to bring greater awareness to the deadly effects of illegal drugs.