Tahlequah Public School students are donning an red clothing and red ribbons this week to show they’re drug-free and proud.
According to ImDrugFree.com, Red Ribbon Week is traditionally held during the last full week of October, but will be honored Oct. 20 - 28 this year.
Tahlequah’s Heritage Elementary School will be raising anti-drug awareness through activities like identifying prescription or over-the-counter medications in comparison to some forms of candy, said Heritage Elementary Counselor Liza Warren.
“My focus will be on the many different kinds of medicine that’s out there. Some look like candy and some don’t,” she said. “I want to remind them why not taking candy from a stranger is important, and to be aware of what they’re taking, to follow the rules and only take [medicine] from a parent.”
Heritage Elementary students will enjoy dress-up days and participate in a classroom door decorating contest to promote this year’s theme of “The Best Me Is Drug-Free.” Other schools in Tahlequah and the rest of Cherokee County will conduct activities next week.
“[Today] we’re ‘Wild about being drug-free,’ so they’re wearing animal print. Wednesday is ‘Give drugs the boot’ - so wear your boots. Thursday is ‘Team up against drugs,’ so wear your favorite team hat or shirt, and then Friday is Red Rally Day, so wear red,” said Warren. “Each day, I will be giving guidance lessons on being drug-free, and the importance of medicine safety.”
With the help of the school’s resource officer and social worker, students will also participate in an activity to raise their understanding of the effects and dangers of alcohol. Students will wear a set of goggles known as “Fatal Vision” to mimic intoxication, said Tahlequah Police and Elementary School Resource Officer Randy Jordan.
“Over the years, I’ve set up an obstacle course and let them drive a golf cart, but our golf cart is broken this year, so I don’t know what we’re going to do. I’ve got the goggles. We toss them tennis balls, and have them walk a straight line with and without the goggles so they can see what it’s like and then ask them if they would want to ride in a car with somebody that is seeing the way you’re seeing right now,” Jordan said. “Just so they can tell what it’s like.”
Students at Heritage will also learn about a nationwide Red Ribbon Week contest that’s being offered by the National Family Partnership and Drug Enforcement Agency. Using “The Best Me Is Drug Free” theme, 10 schools across the country have the chance to win a $1,000 grant for drug prevention while a participating student and his/her family will win an iPad for decorating their home’s front door, mailbox, fence or other areas of their residence.
The student-family will upload a picture of Red Ribbon Week decorations to www.redribbon.org/contest or www.facebook.com/RedRibbonWeek by Friday, Nov. 2 and will have family and friends vote for their entry at www.redribbon.org/vote Nov. 2-16. Winners will be announced in December.
“We will be helping to raise awareness just by getting the word out and having children do it and getting parents involved and taking that stand and action. Who doesn’t want an iPad at home, and really, it would be fabulous to be a school that gets $1,000,” said Warren.
“Our district is low on funds for Red Ribbon Week. So we have to come up with things that don’t cost a whole lot of money, and being a new school this year, we don’t have any extra funding for red ribbon stuff.”
Activities for other Tahlequah and area schools are similar to those at Heritage. Some differences include wearing clothes turned inside-out for “Drugs Will Turn You Inside Out” day, and “Crazy Hair Day” at Cherokee Elementary. Greenwood Elementary will host a “Wear All Black” day to blackout drugs, and will also honor “Plant the Promise Week” by having students write pledges related to Red Ribbon Week, as they plant 100 red tulips provided by the Parent-Teacher Organization.
Tahlequah Middle School students will hear from a victims’ impact panel to raise awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
Because tobacco is viewed as a gateway drug, the Reaching Our Hulbert Community organization invited the Cherokee Nation Tobacco Tour to make a stop at Hulbert Public Schools last week to launch an early celebration of Red Ribbon Week, said ROHC Prevention Specialist Shasta Teague.
“The tobacco tour features three outstanding presenters. Cherokee storyteller Robert Lewis involved the students as he told traditional Cherokee stories warning of the dangers of tobacco use,” said Teague.
Brian Jackson, also known as the “I Believe” guy, is a 12-time world record holder who delivered an inspiring message about maintaining high self-esteem, not bullying others, and motivating students to set high goals in life and remain drug-free, Teague said.
“Ronnie Trentham, the mayor of Stilwell, is a six-time cancer survivor who shared his personal journey of fighting cancer he believes was caused by his use of chewing tobacco,” said. Teague. “Prior to the presentation, the ROHC STARS, or Students Taking Active Rolls in Society, performed a couple of skits warning of the dangers of tobacco use.”
Teague said in addition to coordinating the Cherokee Nation Tobacco Tour visit, ROHC also showed its Red Ribbon Week support by providing students at Hulbert, Norwood and Shady Grove schools with drug-free promotional items. Students at Hulbert High School will celebrate the week Oct. 29 - Nov. 2.
Oct. 22-26 is Drug-Free and Anti-Bullying Week at Norwood School. Students will wear ribbons all week, and will have a chance to win a prize for participation through a daily drawing.
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