The leaves on the trees weren’t the only things that turned red at Wilton High School last week. Red ribbons hugged trees all across campus, red tablecloths covered cafeteria tables, and red anti-drug stickers adorned the shirts of Wilton students. All this in memory of one man and in hopes of a safer community.
This national campaign, known as Red Ribbon Week, strives to educate students of all ages about the benefits of living a drug free life. In Wilton specifically, the campaign this year is driven by the 2011 student and parent surveys conducted by the Wilton Youth Council and Positive Directions that showed a decrease in use of drugs and alcohol in seventh-12th graders since 2007. Wilton’s Red Ribbon Week, initiated by the Wilton Task Force with help from the Wilton Youth Council and CODES, hopes to continue this downward trend, and eventually, foster a drug-free community.
So what do the red ribbons mean?
“The red ribbon is a sign of remembrance for Enrique Camarena, who was murdered in Mexico in February 1985 while serving as a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration assistant,” explained primary organizer and Wilton senior Dakota Dimatio. Mr. Camarena grew up in extreme poverty but with his vision of making a difference, made it through college, served in the Marines and joined the police force. When he decided to join the US Drug Enforcement Administration, he told people “I can’t not do this. I’m only one person, but I want to make a difference.” (redribbonweek.com).
Just weeks after his death, friends and family created Camerena Clubs in California that vowed to live drug-free in honor of Mr. Camarena. To symbolize their efforts, members chose to wear red badges and ribbons. From this, Red Ribbon Week emerged as a national campaign.
In the past, Wilton High School has welcomed speakers during this week who do not preach about the dangers of addictive substances, but rather offer ways to find “natural highs” in a comedic manner that instantly appeals to students.
“This is a pretty low-key Red Ribbon Week focusing on awareness,” Dakota said of this year’s events. There were “announcements, informational slideshows on the TVs throughout the school, a bake sale on Tuesday, Red Ribbon Week anti-drug stickers handed out at lunch, and the customary red table cloths.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 23, there was also a presentation and skit for Wilton juniors led by Outreach Counselor Kristen Dineen, which focused on both drug awareness and domestic violence.
“I think the skit performed at the end definitely added a personal element to it all,” Wilton junior Alex Bendix said. “The numbers and charts from the PowerPoint in the beginning became a story rather than just statistics.”
Events also took place at Middlebrook School, with students signing a pledge wall during their lunch periods on Wednesday, Oct. 24.