DODDS students don ribbons to spark awareness of drug, alcohol dangers
BAMBERG, Germany — Students at Department of Defense schools in Europe have had drugs on their minds a lot lately.
And that’s exactly what their teachers and community planners were hoping for.
During the past week, communities and Department of Defense Dependents Schools have been conducting activities as part of national Red Ribbon Week, an event that puts the spotlight on drug and alcohol abuse awareness. Most activities end Thursday.
“Trying to raise awareness is the goal of Red Ribbon Week,” said Louise Kelly, Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Services counselor for Bamberg High School. “It’s about making a decision when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse.”
Kelly helped coordinate many of the activities involving middle and high school students at Bamberg. The program began in early October by asking middle and high school students to pledge to be alcohol- and drug-free for one year, she said.
Other events included a mock graveyard for celebrities who died from drug-related causes constructed at the youth center, and a visit by the grim reaper at the high school. Kelly said that every 15 minutes, the grim reaper took a student out of class to show how often an American dies from drug-related causes.
“The one message we’re trying to get across, and the reason why I come to work every day, is that I think alcoholism is preventable and treatable,” Kelly said.
“You have to start with an aggressive approach to educate kids. ‘Just say no’ didn’t work,” she said. “I think they need adult role models in their lives, a positive influence who also is someone they can talk to.”
In Mannheim, the high school career coordinator says the students are spreading the message she hopes to get across during a week of activities.
“I hope the message they are getting is that they can make a difference,” said Rosalind Rutledge, who coordinated many of the school’s Red Ribbon events at Mannheim High School.
“They can influence other children to change their lives.”
Among the activities were an essay contest and an all-star basketball game, Rutledge said.
Other events included:
At H.H. Arnold High School in Wiesbaden, students prepared a drug-awareness video that is being broadcast throughout the school.At Vicenza High School in Italy, the school nurse and Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Services counselor launched a drug awareness campaign that focused on specific subjects each day, such as the dangers of smoking and the effects of using inhalants.Events at Lajes Elementary School in the Azores included “sock it to drugs” day with students wearing their most unusual socks, and “hats off to being drug free” during which students wore a favorite hat.Incirlik Elementary School in Turkey had visits from base security forces who spoke about drug awareness, and a “wear red” day, among other events.Kelly said the effort begun during Red Ribbon Week should continue throughout the year.
“This is what I do every day,” she said. “I do treat kids who have been identified as having a problem, but I’m also getting into the classrooms to talk to students before they have a problem. This is the kind of thing where you should be more proactive than reactive.”
The first Red Ribbon Week was in 1988, in honor of Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was murdered in 1985 while investigating a drug cartel in Mexico.
Since its beginning 15 years ago, the campaign has become nationally observed and has become a drug awareness tool to make students and adults aware of the risks of alcohol and drug abuse.