(Photos by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Students throughout the Sikeston R-6 school district are learning to say yes to a drug-free life this week during the celebration of Red Ribbon Week.
"The purpose of Red Ribbon week is to bring awareness to students about saying no to drugs," said Heather Barnes, sixth grade communication arts teacher and Bulldog Volunteer Organization sponsor.
Red Ribbon Week originated as a tribute to Special Agent Enrique "Kiki" S. Camarena of the Drug Enforcement Administration. In 1985, he was killed by drug traffickers in Guadalajara, Mexico. Kiki's death enraged many Americans in his hometown of Calexico, Calif., and they began to wear red ribbons to commemorate his sacrifice. The anti-drug message spread quickly, and in 1988, the National Family Partnership took the Red Ribbon Celebration nationwide.
"In the younger grades, we try to focus on being healthy and doing healthy things for your body," Terri West, counselor at Matthews Elementary, said.
"I don't think you can teach them too young," said Jennifer Reynolds, counselor's aide at Lee Hunter Elementary.
Reynolds said the community is very helpful with supporting the school and Red Ribbon Week by donating prizes or getting schools information.
Matthews Elementary held a schoolwide canned food drive to benefit Bootheel Food Bank last week and the school conducted a parade Monday.
"We really focus on how to make decisions, but we also want to educate students so they know the consequences (of choosing to use drugs)," Kelly Bright, counselor at Fifth Grade Center, said.
Helen Hensley, Kindergarten Center counselor, said fun lessons and a balloon launch are planned this week.
"At this age, it's not so much the actual drugs but letting them understand things we do not put in our mouths," Hensley said.
Today first graders at Southeast Elementary will participate in the red ribbon hunt and second graders will compete in a red ribbon race. Third graders will participate in a red ribbon relay and fourth graders will have a tug of war contest. The school's theme is "My responsibility to stay drug-free."
"I think every student realizes what Red Ribbon Week means, and I talk about it and drug education in guidance class during the month of October," Southeast Elementary counselor Kim Maclin said.
Junior High students are wearing Red Ribbon Week silicone bracelets, counselor Kim Thornbrough said.
At the high school level, most of the Red Ribbon activities are student-
initiated, said Jennifer Porter, National Honor Society coordinator at the Senior High. For example, the National Honor Society group researched statistics and facts on drug abuse and drinking and driving.
"Students are going to chalk the sidewalks with statistics chalking. They've also research famous people who've died of drug overdoses and will make tombstones to raise awareness of the dangers," Porter said.
With the older students, the focus is on awareness, Porter said.
"We don't want to treat them like children. It helps if we do it in a more subtle way with information scattered around the campus that students can read on their own instead of feeling like it's being forced upon them," Porter said.
Celebrating Red Ribbon Week proves worthwhile for everyone involved.
Maclin said her dream is for students to remember to make good choices.
"I hope the education we give them on the dangers of drugs and peer pressure will stick with them, and they'll remember it and practice it as they mature and get older," Maclin said. "I hope they will remember how to say no and walk away in those situations."