By Briana Morgan
Residents in Utah County are seeing red as ribbons decorate trees, fences, and schools in celebration of Red Ribbon Week.
Red Ribbon Week was created to increase awareness about the problems associated with drug abuse and to teach students the importance of living a drug-free life. The program, sponsored by the Utah Federation for Youth, began in 1988.
“It has been very successful in that it has become kind of a norm at schools throughout the state,” said Troy Bennett, director of the Utah Federation for Youth.
Bennett said just about every school participates in the ribbon campaign and the campaign has influenced the lives of students throughout Utah.
“I think it has a big impact on kids,” Bennett said. “It”s something that is consistent throughout all the years they are in school. Whether they are in first grade or fifth grade or eighth grade, they are having that consistent Red Ribbon Week message.”
Ben Reaves, prevention coordinator for the Utah County Health Department Division of Substance Abuse, said programs like Red Ribbon Week teach prevention and have positive results.
“Our goal is to prevent the problem altogether,” Reaves said. “In some cases where that is not likely, we try to delay the onset.”
Reaves said this is why it is important for programs to focus on early intervention.
“We have a really strong abstinence message, but we do educate the youth on the effects as well as the some of the consequences from using drugs,” Reaves said.
In addition to the abstinence message that is promoted during Red Ribbon Week, students participate in activities planned by the school”s PTA.
At Canyon Crest Elementary in Provo a packet was sent home for each family. The packet contained a pledge the family can sign promising to stay drug-free. These pledges will be taken back to school and posted in the hallways.
Patti Sanderson, secretary at Canyon Crest Elementary School, said the PTA has planned activities to help students live a drug-free life.
“The PTA has really outdone themselves,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson said each day of the Red Ribbon Week has a specific theme.
For instance, “Sock it to drugs day” is a day where students can wear crazy socks to school. “Team up against drugs” is a day where students wear their favorite team jersey to school. On another day, “Turn your back on drugs,” students wear their clothing backwards.
Adele Youd, facilitator at Canyon Crest Elementary, said in previous years, students have planted red tulips to symbolize their promise to stay drug free. New students and kindergarteners have the opportunity to write a pledge to be drug-free on tissue paper.
The pledge along with a red tulip will be planted in the ground in front of the school. Students new to the school will plant tulips and pledge to stay drug free.
“They make the pledge and plant the pledge in the fall,” Youd said. “Then they are reminded of the pledge in the spring when the red tulips bloom.”
Youd said she wishes the positive effects of Red Ribbon Week would last throughout the student”s junior high and high school years, but recognizes the benefit the Red Ribbon Week has on elementary students.
“For right now, it does strengthen their cause,” Youd said. “It really does give them a firm resolve, at least for this part of their life, to think that [using drugs] is stupid.”