Back in 1985, Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was kidnapped, tortured and murdered because of his efforts to end illegal drug operations.
He was working undercover in Guadalajara, Mexico for four years when he found a multimillion dollar narcotics manufacturing operation in Chihuahua, Mexico, according to the Red Ribbon Coalition. Camarena’s findings angered many drug operation leaders and they sought revenge.
His efforts to end illegal drug operations and his tragic death led to community members in his hometown of Calexico, Calif. to wear red ribbons in support of illegal drug prevention.
Camarena’s death sparked the start of the October tradition known as Red Ribbon Week to teach students to stay drug free.
A year after his death the California State Parent Teacher Association adopted the Red Ribbon Week campaign. It became a nationally recognized campaign in 1988 with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan serving as the first honorary chairs.
Today, schools across the United States celebrate Red Ribbon Week with red balloons, red ribbons, red bracelets and drug free educational activities.
Students at Pitman High School got to take part in a beer goggle challenge, watch a Smoke Out play and get information about drug and alcohol prevention.
Every day of the week, Pitman High students walked to class with 100 dead bodies drawn with chalk under their feet, said Jen Olsen, Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco club adviser. The 100 chalk drawn bodies represented the 100 people that die every day because of drugs.
“Red Ribbon Week gets the message out to the students,” Olsen said. “It also makes them pass on the message to other people.”
“I learned that a lot of teens try drugs and aren’t really aware of what they get into,” said Demi Castillo, junior at Pitman High School. “Red Ribbon Week helps prevent less students from getting into drugs.”
Along with learning new statistics about drugs and their users, students said they felt like Red Ribbon Week really showed them that anyone can get sucked into drugs.
“So many people that you would never think would do drugs, smoke and drink,” said Liz Segars, freshman at Pitman High. “They look like great kids on the outside, but they do drugs.”
Students at Walnut Elementary School participated in Red Ribbon Week with daily dress up days like wear silly socks day, wear your shirt backwards or wear a silly tie day.
At Cunningham Elementary School students also had dress up days with a saying to go along with the day.
Wednesday students could wear a cap or a crazy hat to go along with the theme of “Use your head, put a cap on drugs,” and on Friday students could wear pajamas to school to say “Drugs destroy sweet dreams.”
Whether students dressed up, watched a play about the affects of drugs and alcohol or put on beer goggles during lunch time, the message was clear — drugs are bad.
“It’s good,” said Hayley Rovito, freshman at Pitman High. “You learn to say ‘no’ to drugs. It really affects you. It makes you want to think about things before you do something.”
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