By Karen Brainard
This week students in the Ramona Unified School District and across the nation are participating in Red Ribbon Week, a drug awareness and prevention program.
At Hanson Elementary, students gathered outside in a sea of red clothing on Monday morning to kick off the week. Andrea Jones from Congressman Duncan D. Hunter’s office presented a certificate of congressional recognition in support of the drug awareness and prevention week to Cathy Pierce, assistant superintendent of the Ramona Unified School District.
Hanson Elementary Principal Shelagh Appleman told the students that Hunter’s father, the former Congressman Duncan Hunter, was instrumental in creating Red Ribbon Week.
Appleman explained that Hunter launched a drug program in Calexico after Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was killed in 1985 by Mexican drug traffickers. Camarena was from Calexico. Hunter and a friend of Camarena’s started Camarena clubs, and hundreds of club members pledged to lead drug-free lives to honor the sacrifice of the agent, according to the DEA website.
Those pledges were delivered to then First Lady Nancy Reagan at a national conference of parents combating youth drug use. From there, several state parent organizations called on community groups to wear red ribbons during the last week of October as a symbol of their commitment to stay drug-free. Participation grew and in 1988 the first national red ribbon week was recognized with President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan as honorary chairpersons.
Appleman said school activities include a different mode of dress for each day of the week to symbolize staying drug-free. Friday will be crazy hair day to say “hair’s to a drug-free life.”
“Kids will get wristbands to wear today and wear throughout the week,” said Appleman. The wristbands are red in support of the drug prevention week.
A wall in the school has been decorated to say “Life is sweet being drug-free” and students are encouraged to sign their names as pledges that they will stay away from drugs.