Each year across the United States, schools are encouraged to observe Red Ribbon Week sponsored by The National Family Partnership. School clubs, organizations and counselors bring out the decorations and usually include dress up days with catchy (sometimes corny) phrases, like “Put a Lid on Drugs — Wear a Hat Today.” But how many of us go through the motions, wear the hats, wear red, wear ourselves out dressing up, but never stop to consider the seriousness of Red Ribbon Week. Red Ribbon Week started in 1985 to honor the life of Federal Agent Enrique Camarena who was killed by drug traffickers. Today we honor and “celebrate,” but more importantly we need to educate.

This year’s Red Ribbon Week theme was “Life Is Your Journey; Travel Drug-Free.” So this week at Van Alstyne High School, we are educating our students not only about drug use, abuse and underage drinking, but we’re relating to them how easily lives can change, for the worse, with one wrong decision. Our Science, Child Development and Principles of Human Services classes are presenting curriculum on prescription drug abuse, vaping and underage drinking. Our School Resource Officer, Azhar Ulhaq, presented to 9th-12th graders from a law enforcement perspective on the dangers and outcomes of drug use. We included some things to have student involvement, like “Pair Up and Be Accountable” — dressing like your accountability person and talking to these students about what it means to hold someone accountable. Instead of only wearing red, we held “Be Brave and Wear Red” in honor of someone they know who is struggling with drugs or alcohol or in memory of someone they knew whose life was taken in a drug-related tragedy. On a positive note, we focused on what could come of their beneficial decisions — Life Is Your Journey; Where Will Yours Take You? wearing the college gear of their choice. We held a special event on Thursday, patterned closely after the “Shattered Dreams” program in hopes that the impact will last a lifetime. And then Friday, we Stood Side-By-Side in Panther Pride, promising to stay or get clean from drugs and alcohol by signing commitment cards in front of our peers.

Our hope is that our students understand how important it is to make positive life choices and they are willing to be brave and follow a healthy path for their lives. With the knowledge we provided this week, we desire to encourage our students to continue on their journeys, drug-free.