This week, Warren County schools and organizations recognized Red Ribbon Week, which runs through Oct. 31.
Since its beginning in 1985, the Red Ribbon campaign has touched the lives of millions of people around the world. In response to the torture and murder of Drug Enforcement Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, by the Mexican drug cartel, angered parents and youth in communities across the country began wearing Red Ribbons as a symbol of their commitment to raise awareness of the killing and destruction cause by drugs in America.
In 1988, the National Family Partnership sponsored the first National Red Ribbon Celebration by embracing DEA Agent Camerena’s belief that one person can make a difference and adopted the symbol of Camarena’s memory, the red ribbon. Today, the Red Ribbon serves as a catalyst to mobilize communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities.
The Warren Hills Community Coalition along with a number of Warren County school districts and county municipal alliances are supporting this campaign and continuing to raise awareness by implementing prevention focused activities. These projects and activities serve to educate our young people and create an awareness of the dangers of using and abusing substances. Studies have shown that the age of first use begins as young as 11, which is the age of a typical 6th grade student.
The theme for this year’s Red Ribbon Campaign is “YOLO. Be Drug Free” and through this theme Warren Hills students are learning the importance of making a pledge to live Above The Influence (ATI) of drugs and alcohol.
“So often the saying “You Only Live Once (YOLO)” has solicited risky behaviors and dangerous decisions. The truth is we do only live once and for that reason we need to change the social norms by teaching our youth to make good and healthy decisions to make sure they live a long and happy life,” said Liz Montalvo, Coalition Project Assistant. “The momentum and the message generated from the Red Ribbon Campaign this week is one that needs to be reinforced throughout the year, which can be accomplished through the support of family and the community.”
In addition to Red Ribbon Week, with the support of the WRNJ radio station, the Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities, the Warren Hills Community Coalition and the Warren County Municipal Alliances are launching the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Systems Administration’s (SAMHSA) “Talk. They Hear You” Campaign, which encourages and empowers parents and caregivers to have a conversation with their children about drugs and alcohol. Parents and guardians have the strongest influence on their child’s decisions about drugs and alcohol, which makes Red Ribbon Week the perfect time to start talking.
“Talk to them about their day, get to know their friends (and their friends’ parents), know where they are going and when they are coming home, talk with their teachers and coaches, volunteer for school activities if you are able and just listen to what they have to say,” said Warren County Prosecutor, Richard Burke. “The most important thing is that you know what is going on with them each day and let them know you care. It will go a long way in keeping them safe.”
The Coalition has resources available to help parents to increase their awareness of the risks of underage drinking and other drugs and equip them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to prevent substance use among our youth. To access these resources and get more information about the “Talk. They Hear You” campaign visit the Coalition’s website www.preventionconnectionsnj.com or call (908) 223-1985.